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Wagner, Ernst; Curiel, David T. and Cotten, Matt (1994): Delivery of drugs, proteins and genes into cells using transferrin as a ligand for receptor-mediated endocytosis. In: Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, Vol. 14, No. 1: pp. 113-135 [PDF, 1MB]

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Transferrin, an iron-transporting serum glycoprotein, is efficiently taken up into cells by the process of receptor-mediated endocytosis. Transferrin receptors are found on the surface of most proliferating cells, in elevated numbers on erythroblasts and on many kinds of tumors. The efficient cellular mechanism for uptake of transferrin has been subverted for the delivery of low-molecular-weight drugs, protein toxins, and liposomes by linkage of these agents to transferrin or to anti-transferrin receptor antibodies. Linkage may be via chemical conjugation procedures or by the generation of chimeric fusion proteins. Transferrin conjugated to DNA-binding compounds (e.g. polycations or intercalating agents) has been successfully used for the import of DNA molecules into cells. High-level gene expression is obtained only if endosome-disruptive agents such as influenza hemagglutinin peptides or adenovirus particles are included which release the DNA complex from intracellular vesicles into the cytoplasm.

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