Rational engineering of a human GFP-like protein scaffold for humanized targeted nanomedicines

Patricia Álamo, Juan Cedano, Oscar Conchillo-Sole, Olivia Cano-Garrido, Lorena Alba-Castellon, Naroa Serna, Anna Aviñó, Luis Miguel Carrasco-Diaz, Alejandro Sánchez-Chardi, Carlos Martinez-Torró, Alberto Gallardo, Montserrat Cano, Ramon Eritja, Antonio Villaverde, Ramon Mangues*, Esther Vazquez, Ugutz Unzueta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a widely used scaffold for protein-based targeted nanomedicines because of its high biocompatibility, biological neutrality and outstanding structural stability. However, being immunogenicity a major concern in the development of drug carriers, the use of exogenous proteins such as GFP in clinics might be inadequate. Here we report a human nidogen-derived protein (HSNBT), rationally designed to mimic the structural and functional properties of GFP as a scaffold for nanomedicine. For that, a GFP-like β-barrel, containing the G2 domain of the human nidogen, has been rationally engineered to obtain a biologically neutral protein that self-assembles as 10nm-nanoparticles. This scaffold is the basis of a humanized nanoconjugate, where GFP, from the well-characterized protein T22-GFP-H6, has been substituted by the nidogen-derived GFP-like HSNBT protein. The resulting construct T22-HSNBT-H6, is a humanized CXCR4-targeted nanoparticle that selectively delivers conjugated genotoxic Floxuridine into cancer CXCR4+ cells. Indeed, the administration of T22-HSNBT-H6-FdU in a CXCR4-overexpressing colorectal cancer mouse model results in an even more efficient selective antitumoral effect than that shown by its GFP-counterpart, in absence of systemic toxicity. Therefore, the newly developed GFP-like protein scaffold appears as an ideal candidate for the development of humanized protein nanomaterials and successfully supports the tumor-targeted nanoscale drug T22-HSNBT-H6-FdU. Statement of significance: Targeted nanomedicine seeks for humanized and biologically neutral protein carriers as alternative of widely used but immunogenic exogenous protein scaffolds such as green fluorescent protein (GFP). This work reports for the first time the rational engineering of a human homolog of the GFP based in the human nidogen (named HSNBT) that shows full potential to be used in humanized protein-based targeted nanomedicines. This has been demonstrated in T22-HSNBT-H6-FdU, a humanized CXCR4-targeted protein nanoconjugate able to selectively deliver its genotoxic load into cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Human scaffold
  • Nanomaterials
  • Protein engineering
  • Rational design
  • Self-assembling
  • Targeting


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