Diagnostic nanoparticle targeting of the EGF-receptor in complex biological conditions using single-domain antibodies†
For effective localization of functionalized nanoparticles at diseased tissues such as solid tumours or metastases through biorecognition, appropriate targeting vectors directed against selected tumour biomarkers are a key prerequisite. The diversity of such vector molecules ranges from proteins, including antibodies and fragments thereof, through aptamers and glycans to short peptides and small molecules. Here, we analyse the specific nanoparticle targeting capabilities of two previously suggested peptides (D4 and GE11) and a small camelid single-domain antibody (sdAb), representing potential recognition agents for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). We investigate specificity by way of receptor RNA silencing techniques and look at increasing complexity in vitro by introducing increasing concentrations of human or bovine serum. Peptides D4 and GE11 proved problematic to employ and conjugation resulted in non-receptor specific uptake into cells. Our results show that sdAb-functionalized particles can effectively target the EGFR, even in more complex bovine and human serum conditions where targeting specificity is largely conserved for increasing serum concentration. In human serum however, an inhibition of overall nanoparticle uptake is observed with increasing protein concentration. For highly affine targeting ligands such as sdAbs, targeting a receptor such as EGFR with low serum competitor abundance, receptor recognition function can still be partially realised in complex conditions. Here, we stress the value of evaluating the targeting efficiency of nanoparticle constructs in realistic biological milieu, prior to more extensive in vivo studies.