The preferential homing of a platelet derived growth factor receptor-recognizing macromolecule to fibroblast-like cells in fibrotic tissue

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Platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) is a key factor in the induction and progression of fibrotic diseases with the activated fibroblast as its target cell. Drug targeting to the PDGF-receptor is explored as a new approach to treat this disease. Therefore, we constructed a macromolecule with affinity for the PDGF-β receptor by modification of albumin with a small peptide that recognises this PDGF-β receptor. The binding of the peptide-modified albumin (pPB-HSA) to the PDGF-β receptor was confirmed in competition studies with PDGF-BB using NIH/3T3-fibroblasts and activated hepatic stellate cells. Furthermore, pPB-HSA was able to reduce PDGF-BB-induced fibroblast proliferation in vitro, and proved to be devoid of proliferation-inducing activity itself. We assessed the distribution of pPB-HSA in vivo in two models of fibrosis and related the distribution of pPB-HSA to PDGF-β receptor density. In rats with liver fibrosis (bile duct ligation model), pPB-HSA quickly accumulated in the liver in contrast to unmodified HSA (P<0.001). The major part of pPB-HSA in the fibrotic liver was localized in hepatic stellate cells. In rats with renal fibrosis (anti-Thy1.1 model), pPB-HSA also homed to the cells that expressed the PDGF-β receptor, i.e. the mesangial cells in the glomeruli of the kidney. These results indicate that pPB-HSA may be applied as a macromolecular drug-carrier that accumulates specifically in cells expressing the PDGF-β receptor, thus allowing a selective delivery of anti-fibrotic agents to these cells.

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