ACS Nano, 2015, 9 (8), 8142-8156

In vivo biomolecule corona around blood-circulating, clinically-used and antibody-targeted lipid bilayer nanoscale vesicles

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Zahraa Al-Ahmady, Mariarosa Mazza, Richard F Collins, Kenneth Dawson, Kostas Kostarelos*

The adsorption of proteins and their layering onto nanoparticle surfaces has been called the ‘protein corona’. This dynamic process of protein adsorption has been extensively studied following in vitro incubation of many different nanoparticles with plasma proteins. However, the formation of protein corona under dynamic, in vivo conditions remains largely unexplored. Extrapolation of in vitro formed protein coronas to predict the fate and possible toxicological burden from nanoparticles in vivo is of great interest. However complete lack of such direct comparisons for clinically used nanoparticles makes the study of in vitro and in vivo formed protein coronas of great importance. Our aim was to study the in vivo protein corona formed onto intravenously injected, clinically used liposomes, based on the composition of the PEGylated liposomal formulation that constitutes the anticancer agent Doxil®. The formation of in vivo protein corona was determined after the recovery of the liposomes from the blood circulation of CD-1 mice 10 minutes post-injection. In comparison, in vitro protein corona was formed by the incubation of liposomes in CD-1 mouse plasma. In vivo and in vitro formed protein coronas were compared in terms of morphology, composition and cellular internalisation. The protein coronas on bare (non-PEGylated) and monoclonal antibody (IgG) targeted liposomes of the same lipid composition were also comparatively investigated. A network of linear fibrillary structures constituted the in vitro formed protein corona, whereas the in vivo corona had a different morphology but did not appear to coat the liposome surface entirely. Even though the total amount of protein attached on circulating liposomes correlated with that observed from in vitro incubations, the variety of molecular species in the in vivo corona were considerably wider. Both in vitro and in vivo formed protein coronas were found to significantly reduce receptor binding and cellular internalisation of antibody-conjugated liposomes, however the in vivo corona formation did not lead to complete ablation of their targeting capability.