The aim of the present study was to develop folic acid (FA) conjugates which can deliver the kinase inhibitor dactolisib to the kidneys via folate receptor-mediated uptake in tubular epithelial cells. Dactolisib is a dual inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and is considered an attractive agent for treatment of polycystic kidney disease. The ethylenediamine platinum(II) linker, herein called Lx, was employed to couple dactolisib via coordination chemistry to thiol-containing FA-spacer adducts to yield FA-Lx-dactolisib conjugates. The dye lissamine was coupled via similar linker chemistry to folate to yield fluorescent FA-Lx-lissamine conjugates. Three different spacers (PEG5-Cys, PEG27-Cys or an Asp-Arg-Asp-Asp-Cys peptide spacer) were used to compare the influence of hydrophilicity and charged groups in the spacer on interaction with target cells and in vivo organ distribution of the final conjugates. The purity and identity of the final products were confirmed by UPLC and LC-MS analysis, respectively. FA-Lx-dactolisib conjugates were stable in serum and culture medium, while dactolisib was released from the conjugates in the presence of glutathione. All three type of conjugates were internalized efficiently by HK-2 cells and uptake could be blocked by an excess of folic acid in the medium, demonstrating FR mediated uptake. FA-Lx-dactolisib conjugates showed nanomolar inhibition of the PI3K pathway (Akt phosphorylation) and mTOR pathway (S6 phosphorylation) in cultured kidney epithelial cells (HK-2 cells). After intraperitoneal administration, all three types conjugates accumulated extensively in kidneys of iKsp-Pkd1 del mice with polycystic kidney disease. In conclusion, folate conjugates were successfully prepared by platinum(II) coordination chemistry and accumulated in a target-specific manner in kidney cells and polycystic kidneys. The folate conjugate of dactolisib thus may have potential for targeted therapy of polycystic kidney disease.
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