Receptor-mediated transcytosis of the transferrin receptor has been suggested as a potential transport system to deliver therapeutic molecules into the brain. Recent studies have however shown that therapeutic antibodies, which have been reported to cross the brain endothelium, reach greater brain exposure when the affinity of the antibodies to the transferrin receptor is lowered. The lower affinity of the antibodies to the transferrin receptor facilitates the dissociation from the receptor within the endosomal compartments, which may indicate that the receptor itself does not necessarily move across the endothelial cells by transcytosis. The aim of the present study was to investigate transferrin receptor expression and role in transendothelial transferrin transport in cultured bovine brain endothelial cell monolayers. Transferrin receptor mRNA and protein levels were investigated in endothelial mono-cultures and co-cultures with astrocytes, as well as in freshly isolated brain capillaries using qPCR, immunocytochemistry and Western blotting. Transendothelial transport and luminal association of holo-transferrin was investigated using [125I]holo-transferrin or [59Fe]-transferrin. Transferrin receptor mRNA expression in all cell culture configurations was lower than in freshly isolated capillaries, but the expression slightly increased during six days of culture. The mRNA expression levels were similar in mono-cultures and co-cultures. Immunostaining demonstrated comparable transferrin receptor localization patterns in mono-cultures and co-cultures. The endothelial cells demonstrated an up-regulation of transferrin receptor mRNA after treatment with the iron chelator deferoxamine. The association of [125I]holo-transferrin and [59Fe]-transferrin to the endothelial cells was inhibited by an excess of unlabeled holo-transferrin, indicating receptor mediated association. However, over time the cell associated [59Fe]-label exceeded that of [125I]holo-transferrin, which could indicate release of iron in the endothelial cells and receptor recycling. Luminal-to-abluminal transport of [125I]holo-transferrin across endothelial cell monolayers was low and not inhibited by unlabeled holo-transferrin. This indicated that transendothelial transferrin transport was independent of transferrin receptor-mediated transcytosis.
- Blood-brain barrier
- Bovine brain endothelial cells
- Cell culture
- Drug delivery
- Rat astrocytes
- Receptor-mediated transcytosis
- Transferrin receptor