Live Cell Imaging by Förster Resonance Energy Transfer Fluorescence to Study Trafficking of PLGA Nanoparticles and the Release of a Loaded Peptide in Dendritic Cells

Mengshan Liu 1 2, Chun Yin Jerry Lau 1, Irene Trillo Cabello 1, Johan Garssen 2 3, Linette E M Willemsen 2, Wim E Hennink 1, Cornelus F van Nostrum 1

Published: June 2023

Our previous study demonstrated that a selected β-lactoglobulin-derived peptide (BLG-Pep) loaded in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanoparticles protected mice against cow’s milk allergy development. However, the mechanism(s) responsible for the interaction of the peptide-loaded PLGA nanoparticles with dendritic cells (DCs) and their intracellular fate was/were elusive. Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), a distance-dependent non-radioactive energy transfer process mediated from a donor to an acceptor fluorochrome, was used to investigate these processes. The ratio of the donor (Cyanine-3)-conjugated peptide and acceptor (Cyanine-5) labeled PLGA nanocarrier was fine-tuned for optimal (87%) FRET efficiency. The colloidal stability and FRET emission of prepared NPs were maintained upon 144 h incubation in PBS buffer and 6 h incubation in biorelevant simulated gastric fluid at 37 °C. A total of 73% of Pep-Cy3 NP was internalized by DCs as quantified using flow cytometry and confirmed using confocal fluorescence microscopy. By real-time monitoring of the change in the FRET signal of the internalized peptide-loaded nanoparticles, we observed prolonged retention (for 96 h) of the nanoparticles-encapsulated peptide as compared to 24 h retention of the free peptide in the DCs. The prolonged retention and intracellular antigen release of the BLG-Pep loaded in PLGA nanoparticles in murine DCs might facilitate antigen-specific tolerance induction.
Keywords: cyanine-3; cyanine-5; Förster resonance energy transfer; dendritic cells; poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles; peptide delivery

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