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Aguiar, L., Biosca, A., Lantero, E., Gut, J., Vale, N., Rosenthal, P. J., Nogueira, F., Andreu, D., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Gomes, P., (2019). Coupling the antimalarial cell penetrating peptide TP10 to classical antimalarial drugs primaquine and chloroquine produces strongly hemolytic conjugates Molecules 24, (24), 4559

Recently, we disclosed primaquine cell penetrating peptide conjugates that were more potent than parent primaquine against liver stage Plasmodium parasites and non-toxic to hepatocytes. The same strategy was now applied to the blood-stage antimalarial chloroquine, using a wide set of peptides, including TP10, a cell penetrating peptide with intrinsic antiplasmodial activity. Chloroquine-TP10 conjugates displaying higher antiplasmodial activity than the parent TP10 peptide were identified, at the cost of an increased hemolytic activity, which was further confirmed for their primaquine analogues. Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry suggest that these drug-peptide conjugates strongly bind, and likely destroy, erythrocyte membranes. Taken together, the results herein reported put forward that coupling antimalarial aminoquinolines to cell penetrating peptides delivers hemolytic conjugates. Hence, despite their widely reported advantages as carriers for many different types of cargo, from small drugs to biomacromolecules, cell penetrating peptides seem unsuitable for safe intracellular delivery of antimalarial aminoquinolines due to hemolysis issues. This highlights the relevance of paying attention to hemolytic effects of cell penetrating peptide-drug conjugates.

Keywords: Antimalarial, Cell penetrating peptide, Chloroquine, Erythrocyte fluorescence, Flow cytometry, Hemolysis, Microscopy, Plasmodium, Primaquine, Red blood cell


Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Toy kit against malaria: Magic bullets, LEGO, Trojan horses and Russian dolls Therapeutic Delivery , 5, (10), 1049-1052

Urban, Patricia, Estelrich, Joan, Cortés, Alfred, Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2011). A nanovector with complete discrimination for targeted delivery to Plasmodium falciparum-infected versus non-infected red blood cells in vitro Journal of Controlled Release 151, (2), 202-211

Current administration methods of antimalarial drugs deliver the free compound in the blood stream, where it can be unspecifically taken up by all cells, and not only by Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs). Nanosized carriers have been receiving special attention with the aim of minimizing the side effects of malaria therapy by increasing drug bioavailability and selectivity. Liposome encapsulation has been assayed for the delivery of compounds against murine malaria, but there is a lack of cellular studies on the performance of targeted liposomes in specific cell recognition and on the efficacy of cargo delivery, and very little data on liposome-driven antimalarial drug targeting to human-infecting parasites. We have used fluorescence microscopy to assess in vitro the efficiency of liposomal nanocarriers for the targeted delivery of their contents to pRBCs. 200-nm liposomes loaded with quantum dots were covalently functionalized with oriented, specific half-antibodies against P. falciparum late form-infected pRBCs. In less than 90 min, liposomes dock to pRBC plasma membranes and release their cargo to the cell. 100.0% of late form-containing pRBCs and 0.0% of non-infected RBCs in P. falciparum cultures are recognized and permeated by the content of targeted immunoliposomes. Liposomes not functionalized with antibodies are also specifically directed to pRBCs, although with less affinity than immunoliposomes. In preliminary assays, the antimalarial drug chloroquine at a concentration of 2 nM, >= 10 times below its IC50 in solution, cleared 26.7 ± 1.8% of pRBCs when delivered inside targeted immunoliposomes.

Keywords: Antimalarial chemotherapy, Chloroquine, Half-antibodies, Immunoliposomes, Malaria, Nanomedicine