Calibrated flux measurements reveal a nanostructure-stimulated transcytotic pathway
Transport of therapeutic agents across epithelial barriers is an important element in drug delivery. Transepithelial flux is widely used as a measure of transit across an epithelium, however it is most typically employed as a relative as opposed to absolute measure of molecular movement. Here, we have used the calcium switch approach to measure the maximum rate of paracellular flux through unencumbered intercellular junctions as a method to calibrate the flux rates for a series of tracers ranging in 0.6–900 kDa in size across barriers composed of human colon epithelial (Caco-2) cells. We then examined the effects of nanostructured films (NSFs) on transepithelial transport. Two different NSF patterns were used, Defined Nanostructure (DN) 2 imprinted on polypropylene (PP) and DN3 imprinted on polyether ether ketone (PEEK). NSFs made direct contact with cells and decreased their barrier function, as measured by transepithelial resistance (TER), however cell viability was not affected. When NSF-induced transepithelial transport of Fab fragment (55 kDa) and IgG (160 kDa) was measured, it was unexpectedly found to be significantly greater than the maximum paracellular rate as predicted using cells cultured in low calcium. These data suggested that NSFs stimulate an active transport pathway, most likely transcytosis, in addition to increasing paracellular flux. Transport of IgG via transcytosis was confirmed by immunofluorescence confocal microscopy, since NSFs induced a significant level of IgG endocytosis by Caco-2 cells. Thus, NSF-induced IgG flux was attributable to both transcytosis and the paracellular route. These data provide the first demonstration that transcytosis can be stimulated by NSFs and that this was concurrent with increased paracellular permeability. Moreover, NSFs with distinct architecture paired with specific substrates have the potential to provide an effective means to regulate transepithelial transport in order to optimize drug delivery.