Incorporation of a selective sigma-2 receptor ligand enhances uptake of liposomes by multiple cancer cells

Yifei Zhang, Yixian Huang, Peng Zhang, Xiang Gao, Robert B. Gibbs, Song Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: The sigma-2 receptor is an attractive target for tumor imaging and targeted therapy because it is overexpressed in multiple types of solid tumors, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer. SV119 is a synthetic small molecule that binds to sigma-2 receptors with high affinity and specificity. This study investigates the utility of SV119 in mediating the selective targeting of liposomal vectors in various types of cancer cells. Methods: SV119 was covalently linked with polyethylene glycol-dioleyl amido aspartic acid conjugate (PEG-DOA) to generate a novel functional lipid, SV119-PEG-DOA. This lipid was utilized for the preparation of targeted liposomes to enhance their uptake by cancer cells. Liposomes with various SV119 densities (0, 1, 3, and 5 mole%) were prepared and their cellular uptake was investigated in several tumor cell lines. In addition, doxorubicin (DOX) was loaded into the targeted and unmodified liposomes, and the cytotoxic effect on the DU-145 cells was evaluated by MTT assay. Results: Liposomes with or without SV119-PEG-DOA both have a mean diameter of approximately 90 nm and a neutral charge. The incorporation of SV119-PEG-DOA significantly increased the cellular uptake of liposomes by the DU-145, PC-3, A549, 201T, and MCF-7 tumor cells, which was shown by fluorescence microscopy and the quantitative measurement of fluorescence intensity. In contrast, the incorporation of SV119 did not increase the uptake of liposomes by the normal BEAS-2B cells. In a time course study, the uptake of SV119 liposomes by DU-145 cells was also significantly higher at each time point compared to the unmodified liposomes. Furthermore, the DOX-loaded SV119 liposomes showed significantly higher cytotoxicity to DU-145 cells compared to the DOX-loaded unmodified liposomes. Conclusion: SV119 liposomes were developed for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells. The targeting efficiency and specificity of SV119 liposomes to cancer cells was demonstrated in vitro. The results of this study suggest that SV119-modified liposomes might be a promising drug carrier for tumor-targeted delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4473-4485
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer therapy
  • Cellular uptake
  • Liposomes
  • SV119
  • Targeted delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry


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