Adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) is a rapidly progressive and usually fatal malignancy of mature T cells characterized by the expression of large numbers of interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptors on the cell surface. Anti- Tac, a monoclonal antibody directed against the IL-2 receptor, was conjugated to liposomes and compared with anti-transferrin receptor (anti-TFR) conjugates for specific binding, internalization, and intracellular drug delivery to ATL cells. Two independent assays were used: a fluorimetric assay with liposome encapsulated 1-hydroxypyrene- 3,6,8-trisulfonic acid, a pH-sensitive fluorescent dye, and a growth inhibition assay using methotrexate-gamma-aspartate, a liposome- dependent cytotoxic drug. MT-1 and HUT-102 cell lines derived from patients with ATL were compared with Molt-4, a leukemia cell line that does not express IL-2 receptors in an uninduced state. Fluorimetric studies showed specific binding and internalization of anti-Tac- conjugated liposomes by HUT-102 and MT-1 but not by the Tac-negative cell line Molt-4, demonstrating the lack of nonspecific or Fc receptor- mediated uptake. Anti-TFR-conjugated liposomes were effectively bound and internalized by all three cell lines and consistently showed the highest degree of cellular liposome uptake. Drug-containing liposomes conjugated to anti-Tac were more than tenfold more effective in causing growth inhibition of ATL cells than the nonspecific control conjugates. Anti-Tac conjugates caused minimal growth inhibition of Molt-4 cells over the concentration range effective against the ATL cells. Anti-TFR- coupled liposomes gave better growth inhibition of HUT-102 and MT-1 cells (40- to 60-fold) than anti-Tac conjugates. Both anti-Tac-directed and anti-TFR-directed liposomes are effective for intracellular drug delivery to ATL cells and may represent a useful method of treatment in this disease.

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