Dual-self-recognizing, stimulus-responsive and carrier-free methotrexate-mannose conjugate nanoparticles with highly synergistic chemotherapeutic effects.


Department of Biomaterials, College of Materials, Research Center of Biomedical Engineering of Xiamen & Key Laboratory of Biomedical Engineering of Fujian Province & Fujian Provincial Key Laboratory for Soft Functional Materials Research, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, China. [Email]


Carrier-free nanoparticles (NPs) via chemotherapeutic drug-drug conjugate assembly are a promising alternative for tumor chemotherapy. However, these NPs are still hindered via their nonspecific internalization into certain healthy cells and tissues. Herein, dual-acting methotrexate (MTX) and mannose (MAN) were conjugated via a hydrolyzable ester bond to synthesize a MTX-MAN conjugate as one molecule, which could be directly self-assembled into stimulus-responsive carrier-free NPs (MTX-MAN NPs) in aqueous solution. Such carrier-free MTX-MAN NPs with an accurate drug to sugar ratio could achieve on-demand drug release by dual stimuli of lysosomal acidity and esterase. Besides, MTX-MAN NPs could be dual-recognized by tumor cells in vitro and specifically by tumors in vivo. Moreover, the large proportion of MAN located on the NPs' surface could exert a shielding effect to avoid phagocytosis of macrophages, leading to long blood circulation. Therefore, the MTX-MAN NPs sharply reduced the drug dosage and decreased the toxicity to normal cells and tissues. Further in vitro and in vivo studies consistently confirmed that the MTX-MAN NPs exhibited superior tumor accumulation and highly synergistic chemotherapeutic effects. Furthermore, we found for the first time that MAN could enhance the antitumor activity of MTX. Considering that bi-functional MTX and MAN are approved via the FDA, and MAN is highly biosafe, the dual-self-recognizing, stimulus-responsive, and carrier-free MTX-MAN NPs might be a simple, selective, and safe chemotherapeutic strategy.

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