To develop melanoma-targeted hollow gold nanospheres (HAuNS) and evaluate their potential utility for selective photothermal ablation (PTA) in melanoma.
A new class of photothermal coupling agents based on HAuNS was synthesized. HAuNS were stabilized with poly(ethylene-glycol) coating and attached with α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone analog, [Nle4,D-Phe7]α-MSH (NDP-MSH), which is a potent agonist of melanocortin type-1 receptor overexpressed in melanoma. The intracellular uptake of the NDP-MSH-conjugated PEGylated HAuNS (NDP-MSH-PEG-HAuNS) and the distribution of β-arrestin were examined in murine B16/F10 melanoma cells. The biodistribution of NDP-MSH-PEG-HAuNs was assessed at 4 h post intravenous injection in tumor-bearing nude mice. PTA effect of the nanoparticles was evaluated both histologically using excised tissue and functionally by [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography ([18F]FDG-PET).
NDP-MSH-PEG-HAuNS consist only of a thin gold wall with hollow interior (outer diameter, 43.5±2.3 nm; shell thickness, 3–4 nm), which display strong and tunable resonance absorption in near-infrared region (NIR, peak 808 nm). The nanoparticles were specifically taken up by melanoma cells, which initiated the recruitment of β-arrestins, the adapters to link the activated G-protein-coupled receptors to clathrin, indicating the involvement of receptor-mediated endocytosis. This resulted in enhanced extravasation of NDP-MSH-PEG-HAuNS from tumor blood vessels and their dispersion into tumor matrix compared with non-specific PEGylated HAuNS. Successful selective PTA of B16/F10 melanoma with targeted HAuNS was confirmed by histological and [18F]FDG-PET evaluation at 24 h post NIR laser irradiation at a low dose energy of 30 J/cm2.
NDP-MSH-PEG-HAuNS have the potentials to mediate targeted photothermal ablation of melanoma.