A smart pH-responsive nano-carrier as a drug delivery system for the targeted delivery of ursolic acid: suppresses cancer growth and metastasis by modulating P53/MMP-9/PTEN/CD44 mediated multiple signaling pathways†
Ursolic acid (UA) has been recently used as a promising anti-tumor and cancer metastatic chemo-preventive agent due to its low toxicity and liver-protecting property. However, the low bioavailability and nonspecific tumor targeting restrict its further clinical application. To address the problem, a silica-based mesoporous nanosphere (MSN) controlled-release drug delivery system (denoted UA@M-CS-FA) was designed and successfully synthesized, and was functionalized with folic acid (FA) and pH-sensitive chitosan (CS) for the targeted delivery of UA to folate receptor (FR) positive tumor cells. UA@M-CS-FA were spherical with mean diameter below 150 nm, and showed about −20 mV potential. Meanwhile, UA@M-CS-FA exhibited a pH-sensitive release manner and high cellular uptake in FR over-expressing HeLa cancer cells. Also, in vitro cellular assays suggested that UA@M-CS-FA inhibited cancer cell growth, invasion and migration. Mechanistically, UA@M-CS-FA induced cancer cell apoptosis and inhibited migration via cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 stage, regulating the PARP/Bcl-2/MMP-9/CD44/PTEN/P53. Importantly, in vivo experiments further confirmed that UA@M-CS-FA significantly suppressed the tumor progression and lung metastasis in tumor-bearing nude mice. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that UA@M-CS-FA treatment regulated CD44, a biomarker of cancer metastasis. Overall, our data demonstrated that a CS and FA modified MSN controlled-release drug delivery system could help broaden the usage of UA and reflect the great application potential of the UA as an anticancer or cancer metastatic chemopreventive agent.