Antibody affinity and valency impact brain uptake of transferrin receptor-targeted gold nanoparticles

Kasper Bendix Johnsen, Martin Bak, Paul Joseph Kempen, Fredrik Melander, Annette Burkhart, Maj Schneider Thomsen, Morten Schallburg Nielsen, Torben Moos, Thomas Lars Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Rationale: The ability to treat invalidating neurological diseases is impeded by the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which inhibits the transport of most blood-borne substances into the brain parenchyma. Targeting the transferrin receptor (TfR) on the surface of brain capillaries has been a popular strategy to give a preferential accumulation of drugs or nanomedicines, but several aspects of this targeting strategy remain elusive. Here we report that TfR-targeted gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) can accumulate in brain capillaries and further transport across the BBB to enter the brain parenchyma. Methods: We characterized our targeting strategy both in vitro using primary models of the BBB and in vivo using quantitative measurements of gold accumulation by inductively-coupled plasma-mass spectrometry together with morphological assessments using light microscopy after silver enhancement and transmission electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Results: We find that the uptake capacity is significantly modulated by the affinity and valency of the AuNP-conjugated antibodies. Specifically, antibodies with high and low affinities mediate a low and intermediate uptake of AuNPs into the brain, respectively, whereas a monovalent (bi-specific) antibody improves the uptake capacity remarkably. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that monovalent ligands may be beneficial for obtaining transcytosis of TfR-targeted nanomedicines across the BBB, which is relevant for future design of nanomedicines for brain drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)3416-3436
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Affinity
  • Brain drug delivery
  • Gold nanoparticle
  • Targeting
  • Transferrin receptor


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