Conjugation Dependent Interaction of Folic Acid with Folate Binding Protein

Rachel L. Merzel, Carolina Frey, Junjie Chen, Rachel Garn, Mallory Van Dongen, Casey A. Dougherty, Ananda Kumar Kandaluru, Philip S. Low, E. Neil G. Marsh, Mark M. Banaszak Holl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Serum proteins play a critical role in the transport, uptake, and efficacy of targeted drug therapies, and here we investigate the interactions between folic acid-polymer conjugates and serum folate binding protein (FBP), the soluble form of the cellular membrane-bound folate receptor. We demonstrate that both choice of polymer and method of ligand conjugation affect the interactions between folic acid-polymer conjugates and serum FBP, resulting in changes in the folic acid-induced protein aggregation process. We have previously demonstrated that individual FBP molecules self-aggregate into nanoparticles at physiological concentrations. When poly(amidoamine) dendrimer-folic acid conjugates bound to FBP, the distribution of nanoparticles was preserved. However, the dendritic conjugates produced larger nanoparticles than those formed in the presence of physiologically normal human levels of folic acid, and the conjugation method affected particle size distribution. In contrast, poly(ethylene glycol)-folic acid conjugates demonstrated substantially reduced binding to FBP, did not cause folic acid-induced aggregation, and fully disrupted FBP self-aggregation. On the basis of these results, we discuss the potential implications for biodistribution, trafficking, and therapeutic efficacy of targeted nanoscale therapeutics, especially considering the widespread clinical use of poly(ethylene glycol) conjugates. We highlight the importance of considering specific serum protein interactions in the rational design of similar nanocarrier systems. Our results suggest that prebinding therapeutic nanocarriers to serum FBP may allow folate-specific metabolic pathways to be exploited for delivery while also affording benefits of utilizing an endogenous protein as a vector.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2350-2360
Number of pages11
JournalBioconjugate chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 20 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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