When a lectin binds a sugar, and other sweet tales
Bernhard, Samuel Pruitt
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The current state of chemotherapy and cancer treatment leaves much to be desired. Treatment is generally non-specific and relies on high dosage to achieve therapeutically relevant concentrations at target sites. Glycopolymer-drug conjugates, featuring targeting molecules and therapeutic prodrug on a water-soluble polymeric scaffold, offer a solution to these contemporary problems. Here, the complexity of glycopolymer design is explored through the lens of a biologically significant carbohydrate-binding receptor. In particular, galectin-3 is a complex Beta-galactoside binding lectin that experiences altered expression in many cancer pathologies and is implicated in metastasis, angiogenesis and poor overall prognosis. Galectin-3 mediates undesired cancer promoting processes through carbohydrate binding and oligomerization. A more complete understanding of the role galectin-3 plays in cancer progression will guide development of methods in the therapeutic intervention of these processes. In the interest of understanding galectin-3 and using it as a targeted receptor, its binding characteristics have been assessed through fluorescence lifetime and dynamic light scattering measurements. Employment of carbohydrates and glycopolymers including mannose, lactose, and lactose functionalized poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers, dendritic polyglycerols (dPG), and linear polymers (LP) provided insight into the carbohydrate binding avidity of galectin-3 and its propensity to oligomerize or form micron scale aggregates. A relationship between scaffold size and receptor recruitment was observed, which sheds light into multivalent binding motifs initiated by these glycopolymers and establishes a threshold for minimum requisite lactose functionality on lactose functionalized dendritic polyglycerols. In vitro cell based glycopolymer studies with AlexaFluor 647 and lactose functionalized PAMAM dendrimers revealed size-dependent uptake and demonstrated that accumulation occurs within the lysosome. Cellular aggregation experiments revealed that lactose functionalized LPs and dPGs influence galectin-3 mediated homotypic cellular aggregation and, in fact, augment this aggregation through receptor recruitment and cross-linking. The results reported here have provided a more fundamental understanding of galectin-3 binding interactions and have laid the groundwork for optimized glycopolymer-drug conjugate design.