Theranostics 2020; 10(14):6245-6260. doi:10.7150/thno.45456

Research Paper

Advanced biomimetic nanoreactor for specifically killing tumor cells through multi-enzyme cascade

Wen Liu1,3, Jinpei Wu1, Xin Ji1, Yandong Ma1, Lamei Liu1, Xiaoqing Zong1, Haiyuan Yang1, Jian Dai1✉, Xiaoyuan Chen2✉, Wei Xue1,3,4✉

1. Key Laboratory of Biomaterials of Guangdong Higher Education Institutes, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
2. Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
3. Department of Orthopedics, The First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
4. Institute of Life and Health Engineering, Key Laboratory of Functional Protein Research of Guangdong Higher Education Institutes, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Liu W, Wu J, Ji X, Ma Y, Liu L, Zong X, Yang H, Dai J, Chen X, Xue W. Advanced biomimetic nanoreactor for specifically killing tumor cells through multi-enzyme cascade. Theranostics 2020; 10(14):6245-6260. doi:10.7150/thno.45456. Available from

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Although the enzyme catalytic nanoreactors reported so far have achieved excellent therapeutic efficacy, how to accurately exert enzyme activity in the tumor microenvironment to specifically kill tumor cells and avoid systemic oxidative damage would be an inevitable challenge for catalytic nanomedicine. At the present study, we fabricate an advanced biomimetic nanoreactor, SOD-Fe0@Lapa-ZRF for tumor multi-enzyme cascade delivery that combined specifically killing tumor cells and protect cells from oxidative stress.

Methods: We first synthesized the FeNP-embedded SOD (SOD-Fe0) by reduction reaction using sodium borohydride. Next, SOD-Fe0 and Lapa cargo were encapsulated in ZIF-8 by self-assembly. In order to protect the cargo enzyme from digestion by protease and prolong blood circulating time, SOD-Fe0@Lapa-Z was further cloaked with RBC membrane and functionalized with folate targeting, resulting in the final advanced biomimetic nanoreactor SOD-Fe0@Lapa-ZRF.

Results: Once internalized, ZIF-8 achieves pH-triggered disassembly in weakly acidic tumor microenvironment. The released SOD-Fe0 and Lapa were further endocytosed by tumor cells and the Lapa produces superoxide anion (O2-•) through the catalysis of NQO1 that is overexpressed in tumor cells, while O2-• is converted to H2O2 via SOD. At this time, the released ferrous ions from SOD-Fe0 and H2O2 are further transformed to highly toxic hydroxyl radicals (•OH) for specifically killing tumor cells, and there was no obvious toxicological response during long-term treatment. Importantly, SOD-Fe0@Lapa-ZRF enhanced the normal cell's anti-oxidation ability, and thus had little effect on the secretion of TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β pro-inflammatory cytokines, while effectively reversed the decreased activity of T-SOD and GSH-Px and remained stable MDA content after tumor treatment. In vitro and in vivo results indicate that the tumor microenvironment-responsive release multi-enzyme cascade have high tumor specificity and effective anti-tumor efficacy, and can protect cells from oxidative stress damage.

Conclusion: The biomimetic nanoreactor will have a great potential in cancer nanomedicine and provide a novel strategy to regulate oxidative stress.

Keywords: biomimetic nanoreactor, multi-enzyme cascade, ROS modulation, β-lapachone, superoxide dismutase