Liposomes assembled from dimeric retinoic acid phospholipid with improved pharmacokinetic properties

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All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) exhibits potent cytotoxicities against different cancer cells by binding to retinoic acid receptors (RARs), which is regarded as the first example of targeted therapy in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). However, its extensive clinical applications have been limited because of poor aqueous solubility, short half-life time and side effects. In this report, dimeric ATRA phosphorylcholine prodrug (Di-ATRA-PC) was designed and assembled into nanoliposomes to improve its pharmacokinetic properties. Di-ATRA-PC prodrug was synthesized by a facile esterification and characterized by mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The Di-ATRA-PC assembled liposomes were prepared by thin film hydration method with ATRA loading efficiency up to 73 wt%. The liposomes have a uniform particle size (73.1 ± 3.6 nm) with negatively charged surface (−20.5 ± 2.5 mV) and typical lipid bilayer structure as measured by dynamic light scattering (DLS), transmission electron microscope (TEM) and cryogenic transmission electron microscope (cryo-TEM). In vitro drug release study confirmed that Di-ATRA-PC liposomes could sustainedly release free ATRA in a weakly acidic condition. Furthermore, cellular uptake, MTT and cell apoptosis analysis demonstrated that the liposomes could be successfully internalized into tumor cells to induce apoptosis of MCF-7 and HL-60 cells. More importantly, in vivo pharmacokinetic assay indicated that Di-ATRA-PC liposomes had much longer retention time in comparison with ATRA. In conclusion, Di-ATRA-PC liposomal formulation could be a potential drug delivery system of ATRA with enhanced pharmacokinetic properties.Graphical Abstract

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