Multilamellar vesicles (MLVs) have been used as drug carriers to increase efficacy or decrease toxicity of a variety of therapeutic agents, including antineoplastics, antibiotics, and immunomodulators. Although analysis of the disposition of encapsulated materials is relatively simple using radiolabels or single enzymes, determining the cellular and subcellular disposition of intact MIVs, i.e., those that still retain their encapsulated materials, is much less straightforward. We have developed a technique that allows demonstration of the uptake of intact MLVs by Kupffer cells. The method is based on co-localization of paired enzymes, glucose oxidase (GO), and horseradish peroxidase (HRP). The rationale for the localization is that H2O2 generated from glucose and oxygen by GO acts as the substrate for the HRP-mediated oxidative polymerization of diaminobenzidine. Therefore, only sites of co-localization of GO and HRP should stain. Mice were injected IV with phosphatidyl choline MLVs encapsulating HRP and GO. Encapsulated enzymes were separated from non-encapsulated by passing the MLVs over a Sepharose 2B column. Control mice were injected with equivalent amounts of free GO. Mice were sacrificed 30 min after injection and liver tissue was fixed in 3% cacodylate-buffered glutaraldehyde for at least 18 hr. Tissues were washed in buffer, then stained in medium containing glucose, diaminobenzidine HCl, and dimethylsulfoxide in 0.1 M cacodylate buffer. In animals injected with MLV-encapsulated GO and HRP, vacuoles in Kupffer cells and some endothelial cells contained electron-dense reaction product. No other cell type, including polymorphonuclear leukocytes, was stained. In control animals no staining was seen. Our results indicate that encapsulation of paired enzymes may be a feasible method to demonstrate the cellular and subcellular disposition of intact liposomes.
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