Fluorescent ampicillin analogues as multifunctional disguising agents against opsonization†
Cancer nanomedicines are opening new paradigms in cancer management and recent research points to how they can vastly improve imaging and therapy through multimodality and multifunctionality. However, challenges to achieving optimal efficacy are manifold starting from processing materials and evaluating their intended effectiveness on biological tissue, to developing new strategies aimed at improving transport of these materials through the biological milieu to the target tissue. Here, we report a fluorescent derivative of a beta-lactam antibiotic, ampicillin (termed iAmp) and its multifunctional physicobiochemical characteristics and potential as a biocompatible shielding agent and an effective dispersant. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were chosen to demonstrate the efficacy of iAmp. CNTs are known for their versatility and have been used extensively for cancer theranostics as photothermal and photoacoustic agents, but have limited solubility in water and biocompatibility. Traditional dispersants are associated with imaging artifacts and are not fully biocompatible. The chemical structure of iAmp is consistent with a deamination product of ampicillin. Although the four-membered lactam ring is intact, it does not retain the antibiotic properties. The iAmp is an effective dispersant and simultaneously serves as a fluorescent label for single-walled CNTs (SWNTs) with minimal photobleaching. The iAmp also enables bioconjugation of SWNTs to bio-ligands such as antibodies through functional carboxyl groups. Viability tests show that iAmp-coated SWNTs have minimal toxicity. Bio-stability tests under physiological conditions reveal that iAmp coating not only remains stable in a biologically relevant environment with high protein and salt concentrations, but also renders SWNTs transparent against nonspecific protein adsorption, also known as protein corona. Mammalian tissue culture studies with macrophages and opsonins validate that iAmp coating affords immunological resistance to SWNTs. Furthermore, iAmp coating offers protection to SWNTs against their nonspecific adsorption across disparate cell types, which has precluded a targeted strategy, and enables selective molecular targeting. The iAmp can therefore be used as an efficient dispersant, a photostable fluorescent agent, and a biocompatible disguising agent, alleviating CNTs’ drawbacks and rendering them suitable for nanotheranostic and drug delivery applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Nanoscale approaches for cancer diagnosis and treatment