Theranostics 2017; 7(14):3489-3503. doi:10.7150/thno.20578

Research Paper

Glioma Dual-Targeting Nanohybrid Protein Toxin Constructed by Intein-Mediated Site-Specific Ligation for Multistage Booster Delivery

Yingzhi Chen1, 2, Meng Zhang1, 2, Hongyue Jin1, 2, Dongdong Li1,3, Fan Xu1,3, Aihua Wu1, Jinyu Wang1, Yongzhuo Huang1✉

1. Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 501 Haike Rd, Shanghai 201203, China
2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. 19A Yuquan Road, Beijing 100049, China
3. Nano Science and Technology Institute, University of Science and Technology of China. 166 Ren-ai Rd, Suzhou 215123, China

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Chen Y, Zhang M, Jin H, Li D, Xu F, Wu A, Wang J, Huang Y. Glioma Dual-Targeting Nanohybrid Protein Toxin Constructed by Intein-Mediated Site-Specific Ligation for Multistage Booster Delivery. Theranostics 2017; 7(14):3489-3503. doi:10.7150/thno.20578. Available from

File import instruction


Malignant glioma is one of the most untreatable cancers because of the formidable blood-brain barrier (BBB), through which few therapeutics can penetrate and reach the tumors. Biologics have been booming in cancer therapy in the past two decades, but their application in brain tumor has long been ignored due to the impermeable nature of BBB against effective delivery of biologics. Indeed, it is a long unsolved problem for brain delivery of macromolecular drugs, which becomes the Holy Grail in medical and pharmaceutical sciences. Even assisting by targeting ligands, protein brain delivery still remains challenging because of the synthesis difficulties of ligand-modified proteins. Herein, we propose a rocket-like, multistage booster delivery system of a protein toxin, trichosanthin (TCS), for antiglioma treatment. TCS is a ribosome-inactivating protein with the potent activity against various solid tumors but lack of specific action and cell penetration ability. To overcome the challenge of its poor druggability and site-specific modification, intein-mediated ligation was applied, by which a gelatinase-cleavable peptide and cell-penetrating peptide (CPP)-fused recombinant TCS toxin can be site-specifically conjugated to lactoferrin (LF), thus constructing a BBB-penetrating, gelatinase-activatable cell-penetrating nanohybrid TCS toxin. This nanohybrid TCS system is featured by the multistage booster strategy for glioma dual-targeting delivery. First, LF can target to the BBB-overexpressing low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-1 (LRP-1), and assist with BBB penetration. Second, once reaching the tumor site, the gelatinase-cleavable peptide acts as a separator responsive to the glioma-associated matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), thus releasing to the CPP-fused toxin. Third, CPP mediates intratumoral and intracellular penetration of TCS toxin, thereby enhancing its antitumor activity. The BBB penetration and MMP-2-activability of this delivery system were demonstrated. The antiglioma activity was evaluated in the subcutaneous and orthotopic animal models. Our work provides a useful protocol for improving the druggability of such class of protein toxins and promoting their in-vivo application for targeted cancer therapy.

Keywords: trichosanthin, lactoferrin, brain targeted delivery, antiglioma therapy, MMP-2, intein-mediated protein ligation, cell-penetrating peptide