Acidification of extracellular space promotes tumor development, progression, and invasiveness. pH (low) insertion peptides (pHLIP(®) peptides) belong to the class of pH-sensitive membrane peptides, which target acidic tumors and deliver imaging and/or therapeutic agents to cancer cells within tumors.
The fluorescently labeled pHLIP(®) variants were classified based on their biodistribution profile and ability of targeting of primary tumors. Also, submillimeter-sized metastatic lesions in lungs were identified by ex vivo imaging after intravenous administration of fluorescent pHLIP(®) peptide.
Different cargo molecules conjugated with pHLIP(®) peptides can alter biodistribution and tumor targeting. The obtained knowledge is essential for the design of novel pHLIP(®)-based diagnostic and therapeutic agents targeting primary tumors and metastatic lesions.
Ex vivo fluorescent imaging of tissue and organs collected at various time points after administration of different pHLIP(®) variants conjugated with fluorescent dyes of various polarity was performed. Methods of multivariate statistical analyses were employed to establish classification between fluorescently labeled pHLIP(®) variants in multidimensional space of spectral parameters.