Spleen plays an important role in the induction of accelerated blood clearance of PEGylated liposomes

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It is well known that steric stabilization of the surface of liposomes by a polyethyleneglycol (PEG) conjugated lipid results in reduced recognition of the liposomes by the cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system and consequently extended circulation times of the liposomes (t1/2≈20 h in rat). Recently, we reported on the “accelerated blood clearance (ABC) phenomenon”, causing PEGylated liposomes to be cleared very rapidly from the circulation upon repeated injection. We also reported that abundant binding of IgM, secreted into the blood stream after the first dose and, to PEGylated liposomes, plays an essential role in the induction of the ABC phenomenon. Spleen is well known to play a central role in the immune reaction and to produce IgM following a bacterial infection. The aim of the present study was to determine whether spleen contributes to the induction of the ABC phenomenon and to unravel its role in the phenomenon. In rats that were splenectomized (surgical removal of spleen) prior to the first injection of liposomes (0.001 μmol phospholipids/kg), the ABC phenomenon was totally abolished. In these rats serum IgM concentrations as well as the amounts of IgM bound to PEGylated liposomes were substantially reduced. Splenectomy attenuated the ABC phenomenon when performed until 3 days post-first injection. Removal of the spleen 4 days post-first injection left the ABC phenomenon unchanged. This finding indicates that the immune reaction in the spleen against the PEGylated liposomes occurs during at least 2–3 days following the first administration and then IgM reactive to PEGylated liposomes is produced. The present study proves that the spleen plays a critical role in the induction phase of the ABC phenomenon. For effective clinical application, many liposomal drug formulations will require multiple injections. The ABC phenomenon described in this and several preceding papers therefore has important implications for the development and evaluation of therapeutically useful liposomal formulations requiring multiple-dose administration.

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