Transferrin-decorated thymoquinone-loaded PEG-PLGA nanoparticles exhibit anticarcinogenic effect in non-small cell lung carcinoma via the modulation of miR-34a and miR-16
Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is a highly lethal type of cancer with limited therapeutic avenues available to date. In the present study, we formulated PEGylated PLGA thymoquinone nanoparticles (TQ-Np) for improved TQ delivery to NSCLC cells. Transferrin (TF), a biodegradable, non-immunogenic and non-toxic protein, is well known to bind to TFR (transferrin receptor) over-expressed in non-small cell lung carcinoma A549 cells. Thus, the further decoration of the PEGylated PLGA thymoquinone nanoparticles with transferrin (TF-TQ-Np) enhanced the internalization of the nanoparticles within the A549 cells and the activity of TQ. We established TF-TQ-Np as a potent anti-tumorigenic agent through the involvement of p53 and the ROS feedback loop in regulating the microRNA (miRNA) circuitry to control apoptosis and migration of NSCLC cells. TF-TQ-Np-mediated p53 up-regulation favored the potential simultaneous activation of miR-34a and miR-16 targeting Bcl2 to induce apoptosis in the A549 cells. Additionally, TF-TQ-Np also restricted the migration through actin de-polymerization via activation of the p53/miR-34a axis. Further studies in chick CAM xenograft models confirmed the anti-cancer activity of TF-TQ-Np by controlling the p53/miR-34a/miR-16 axis. Furthermore, in vivo experiments conducted in a xenograft model in immunosuppressed Balb/c mice also proved the efficacy of the nanoparticles as an antitumor agent against NSCLC. Thus, our findings cumulatively suggest that the transferrin-adorned TQ-Np successfully coupled two distinct miRNA pathways to potentiate the apoptotic death cascade in the very lethal NSCLC cells and also restricts the migration of these cells without imparting any significant toxicity, which occurs in the widely used chemotherapeutic combinations. Thereby, our findings rekindle new hopes for the development of improved targeted therapeutic options with specified molecular objectives for combating the deadly NSCLC.