Membrane composition is a functional determinant of NIR-activable liposomes in orthotopic head and neck cancer

Mina Guirguis, Chanda Bhandari, Junjie Li, Menitte Eroy, Sushant Prajapati, Ryan Margolis, Navadeep Shrivastava, Kenneth Hoyt, Tayyaba Hasan, Girgis Obaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Near-infrared (NIR)-activable liposomes containing photosensitizer (PS)-lipid conjugates are emerging as tunable, high-payload, and tumor-selective platforms for photodynamic therapy (PDT)-based theranostics. To date, the impact that the membrane composition of a NIR-activable liposome (the chemical nature and subsequent conformation of PS-lipid conjugates) has on their in vitro and in vivo functionality has not been fully investigated. While their chemical nature is critical, the resultant physical conformation dictates their interactions with the immediate biological environments. Here, we evaluate NIR-activable liposomes containing lipid conjugates of the clinically-used PSs benzoporphyrin derivative (BPD; hydrophobic, membrane-inserting conformation) or IRDye 700DX (hydrophilic, membrane-protruding conformation) and demonstrate that membrane composition is critical for their function as tumor-selective PDT-based platforms. The PS-lipid conformations were primarily dictated by the varying solubilities of the two PSs and assisted by their lipid conjugation sites. Conformation was further validated by photophysical analysis and computational predictions of PS membrane partitioning (topological polar surface area [tPSA], calculated octanol/water partition [cLogP], and apparent biomembrane permeability coefficient [Papp]). Results show that the membrane-protruding lipo-IRDye700DX exhibits 5-fold more efficient photodynamic generation of reactive molecular species (RMS), 12-fold expedited phototriggered burst release of entrap-ped agents, and 15-fold brighter fluorescence intensity as compared to the membrane-inserting lipo-BPD-PC (phosphatidylcholine conjugate). Although the membrane-inserting lipo-BPD-PC exhibits less efficient photo-dynamic generation of RMS, it allows for more sustained phototriggered release, 10-fold greater FaDu cancer cell phototoxicity, and 7.16-fold higher tumor-selective delivery in orthotopic mouse FaDu head and neck tumors. These critical insights pave the path for the rational design of emerging NIR-activable liposomes, whereby functional consequences of membrane composition can be tailored toward a specific therapeutic purpose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3169-3185
Number of pages17
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 2 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • head and neck cancer
  • nanomedicine
  • near infrared
  • photodynamic therapy
  • tumor delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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