Water-Soluble Nanoconjugate for Enhanced Cellular Delivery of Receptor-Targeted Magnetic Resonance Contrast Agents

Laura K. Moore, Michael A. Caldwell, Taryn R. Townsend, Keith W. Macrenaris, Georgette Moyle-Heyrman, Nikhil Rammohan, Erika K. Schonher, Joanna E. Burdette, Dean Ho*, Thomas J. Meade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


ProGlo is an efficient steroid receptor-targeted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging contrast agent (CA). It has been shown to bind to the progesterone receptor (PR) and produce enhanced image contrast in PR-positive cells and tissues in vitro and in vivo. However, the hydrophobicity of the steroid targeting domain of ProGlo (logP = 1.4) limits its formulation and delivery at clinically relevant doses. In this work, a hydrophobic moiety was utilized to drive efficient adsorption onto nanodiamond (ND) clusters to form a water-soluble nanoconstruct (logP = -2.4) with 80% release in 8 h under biological conditions. In cell culture, the ND-ProGlo construct delivered increased concentrations of ProGlo to target cells compared to ProGlo alone. Importantly, these results were accomplished without the use of solvents such as DMSO, providing a significant advance toward formulating ProGlo for translational applications. Biodistribution studies confirm the delivery of ProGlo to PR(+) tissues with enhanced efficacy over untargeted controls. These results demonstrate the potential for a noncovalent ND-CA construct as a general strategy for solubilizing and delivering hydrophobic targeted MR CAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2947-2957
Number of pages11
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 20 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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