PEGylation of hyaluronic acid nanoparticles improves tumor targetability in vivo

Ki Young Choi, Kyung Hyun Min, Hong Yeol Yoon, Kwangmeyung Kim, Jae Hyung Park, Ick Chan Kwon, Kuiwon Choi, Seo Young Jeong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

312 Scopus citations


A major drawback of hyaluronic acid (HA)-based drug conjugates or nanoparticles for cancer therapy is their preferential accumulation in the liver after systemic administration. In an attempt to investigate the physicochemical characteristics and in vivo fates of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-conjugated HA nanoparticles (HA-NPs), amphiphilic HA derivatives were prepared by varying the degree of PEGylation. The PEGylated HA-NPs formed self-assembled nanoparticles (217-269 nm in diameter) with the negatively charged surfaces in the physiological condition. Although PEGylation of HA-NPs reduced their cellular uptake in vitro, larger amounts of nanoparticles were taken up by cancer cells over-expressing CD44, an HA receptor, than by normal fibroblast cells. The ex vivo images of the organs using an optical imaging technique after the intravenous injection of Cy5.5-labeled nanoparticles into normal mice demonstrated that PEGylation could effectively reduce the liver uptake of HA-NPs and increase their circulation time in the blood. When the nanoparticles were systemically administered into tumor-bearing mice for in vivo real-time imaging, the strongest fluorescence signals were detected at the tumor site of the mice for the whole period of time studied, indicating their high tumor targetability. Interestingly, PEGylated HA-NPs were more effectively accumulated into the tumor tissue up to 1.6-fold higher than bare HA-NPs. The high tumor targetability of PEGylated HA-NPs was further supported by the intravital tumor imaging, in which their rapid extravasation into the tumor tissue was clearly observed. These results suggest that PEGylated HA-NPs can be useful as a means for cancer therapy and diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1880-1889
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported by the National R&D Program for Cancer Control ( 0920120 ) and the Korea Health 21 R&D Project ( A062254 ) of MIHWAF, the Converging Research Program ( 20090081871 ) and the Global Research Laboratory of MEST , and the BioImaging Research Center at GIST , Republic of Korea.


  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Molecular imaging
  • Nanoparticle
  • PEGylation
  • Tumor targeting


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