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Jones, Steven K.; Sarkar, Anwesha; Feldmann, Daniel P.; Hoffmann, Peter; Merkel, Olivia M. (2017): Revisiting the value of competition assays in folate receptor-mediated drug delivery. In: Biomaterials, Vol. 138: pp. 35-45
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Polymeric nanoparticles have been studied for gene and drug delivery. These nanoparticles can be modified to utilize a targeted delivery approach to selectively deliver their payload to specific cells, while avoiding unwanted delivery to healthy cells. One commonly over-expressed receptor which can be targeted by ligand-conjugated nanoparticles is the folate receptor alpha (FR alpha). The ability to target FR alpha remains a promising concept, and therefore, understanding the binding dynamics of the receptor with the ligand of the nanoparticle therapeutic can provide valuable insight. This manuscript focuses on the interaction between self-assembled nanoparticles decorated with a folic acid (FA) ligand and FR alpha. The nanoparticles consist of micelles formed with a FA conjugated triblock copolymer (PEI-g-PCL-b-PEG-FA) which condensed siRNA to form micelleplexes. By combining biological and biophysical approaches, this manuscript explores the binding kinetics and force of the targeted siRNA containing nanoparticles to FR alpha in comparison with free FA. We demonstrate via flow cytometry and atomic force microscopy that multivalent micelleplexes bind to FR alpha with a higher binding probability and binding force than monovalent FA. Furthermore, we revisited why competitive inhibition studies of binding of multivalent nanoparticles to their respective receptor are often reported in literature to be inconclusive evidence of effective receptor targeting. In conclusion, the results presented in this paper suggest that multivalent targeted nanoparticles display strong receptor binding that a monovalent ligand may not be able to compete with under in vitro conditions and that high concentrations of competing monovalent ligands can lead to measurement artifacts.