Contrast microbubbles in combination with ultrasound (US) are promising vehicles for local drug and gene delivery. However, the exact mechanisms behind intracellular delivery of therapeutic compounds remain to be resolved. We hypothesized that endocytosis and pore formation are involved during US and microbubble targeted delivery (UMTD) of therapeutic compounds. Therefore, primary endothelial cells were subjected to UMTD of fluorescent dextrans (4.4 to 500 kDa) using 1 MHz pulsed US with 0.22-MPa peak-negative pressure, during 30 seconds. Fluorescence microscopy showed homogeneous distribution of 4.4- and 70-kDa dextrans through the cytosol, and localization of 155- and 500-kDa dextrans in distinct vesicles after UMTD. After ATP depletion, reduced uptake of 4.4-kDa dextran and no uptake of 500-kDa dextran was observed after UMTD. Independently inhibiting clathrin- and caveolae-mediated endocytosis, as well as macropinocytosis significantly decreased intracellular delivery of 4.4- to 500-kDa dextrans. Furthermore, 3D fluorescence microscopy demonstrated dextran vesicles (500 kDa) to colocalize with caveolin-1 and especially clathrin. Finally, after UMTD of dextran (500 kDa) into rat femoral artery endothelium in vivo, dextran molecules were again localized in vesicles that partially colocalized with caveolin-1 and clathrin. Together, these data indicated uptake of molecules via endocytosis after UMTD. In addition to triggering endocytosis, UMTD also evoked transient pore formation, as demonstrated by the influx of calcium ions and cellular release of preloaded dextrans after US and microbubble exposure. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that endocytosis is a key mechanism in UMTD besides transient pore formation, with the contribution of endocytosis being dependent on molecular size.

Cell membrane pore, Dextran, Endocytosis, Endothelial cells, Ultrasound microbubble targeted delivery,
Circulation Research
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Meijering, B.D.M, Juffermans, L.J.M, van Wamel, A, Henning, R.H, Zuhorn, I.S, Emmer, M, … Kamp, O. (2009). Ultrasound and microbubble-targeted delivery of macromolecules is regulated by induction of endocytosis and pore formation. Circulation Research, 104(5), 679–687. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.108.183806