The use of tail-anchored protein chimeras to enhance liposomal cargo delivery

Abbi Abdelrehim, Lior Shaltiel, Ling Zhang, Yechezkel Barenholz, Stephen High, Lynda K. Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Liposomes are employed as drug delivery vehicles offering a beneficial pharmacokinetic/ distribution mechanism for in vivo therapeutics. Therapeutic liposomes can be designed to target specific cell types through the display of epitope-specific targeting peptides on their surface. The majority of peptides are currently attached by chemical modification of lipid constituents. Here we investigate an alternative and novel method of decorating liposomes with targeting ligand, using remotely and spontaneously inserting chimeric tail-anchored membrane (TA) proteins to drug loaded liposomes. Methods and results An artificial TA protein chimera containing the transmembrane domain from the spontaneously inserting TA protein cytochrome b5 (Cytb5) provided a robust membrane tether for the incorporation of three different targeting moieties into preformed liposomes. The moieties investigated were the transactivator of transcription (TAT) peptide, the EGF-receptor binding sequence GE11 and the placental and tumour homing ligand CCGKRK. In all cases, TA protein insertion neither significantly altered the size of the liposomes nor reduced drug loading. The efficacy of this novel targeted delivery system was investigated using two human cell lines, HeLa M and BeWo. Short term incubation with one ligand-modified TA chimera, incorporating the TAT peptide, significantly enhanced liposomal delivery of the encapsulated carboxyfluorescein reporter. Conclusion The Cytb5 TA was successfully employed as a membrane anchor for the incorporation of the desired peptide ligands into a liposomal drug delivery system, with minimal loss of cargo during insertion. This approach therefore provides a viable alternative to chemical conjugation and its potential to accommodate a wider range of targeting ligands may provide an opportunity for enhancing drug delivery.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0212701
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Abdelrehim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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