Lysolipid-containing thermosensitive liposomes (LTSL) are clinically-relevant drug nanocarriers which have been used to deliver small molecule cytostatics to tumors in combination with local hyperthermia (42 °C) to trigger local drug release. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of LTSL for encapsulation and triggered release of macromolecular drugs such as plant-derived cytotoxins. As therapeutic protein we used Mistletoe lectin-1 (ML1) - a ribosome-inactivating protein with potent cytotoxic activity in tumor cells.
Model macromolecules (dextrans, albumin) and ML1 were encapsulated in small unilamellar LTSL with varying lipid compositions by the thin film hydration method and extrusion. LTSLs showed molecular weight dependent heat-triggered release of the loaded cargo. The most promising composition, ML1 formulated in LTSL composed of 86:10:4 %mol DPPC:MSPC:DSPE-PEG2000, was further studied for bioactivity against murine CT26 colon carcinoma cells. Confocal live-cell imaging showed uptake of released ML1 after mild hyperthermia at 42 °C, subsequently leading to potent cytotoxicity by LTSL-ML1. Our study shows that LTSL in combination with localized hyperthermia hold promise as local tumor delivery strategy for macromolecular cytotoxins.