Introduction: Folate receptor (FR)-expressing macrophages have been shown to accumulate at sites of inflammation, where they promote development of inflammatory symptoms. To target such a macrophage population, we designed and evaluated the biologic activity of EC0746, a novel folic acid conjugate of the highly potent antifolate, aminopterin.Methods: Using a FR-positive subclone of murine macrophage-derived RAW264.7 cells and rat thioglycollate-elicited macrophages, we studied the effect of EC0746 on dihydrofolate reductase activity, cell proliferation, and cellular response towards bacterial lipopolysaccharide as well as IFNγ activation. The EC0746 anti-inflammatory activity, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity were also evaluated in normal rats or in rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis; that is, a FR-positive macrophage model that closely resembles rheumatoid arthritis in humans.Results: EC0746 suppresses the proliferation of RAW264.7 cells and prevents the ability of nonproliferating rat macrophages to respond to inflammatory stimuli. In the macrophage-rich rat arthritis model, brief treatment with subcutaneously administered EC0746 is shown to mediate an FR-specific anti-inflammatory response that is more potent than either orally administered methotrexate or subcutaneously delivered etanercept. More importantly, EC0746 therapy is also shown to be ~40-fold less toxic than unmodified aminopterin, with fewer bone marrow and gastrointestinal problems.Conclusions: EC0746 is the first high FR-binding dihydrofolate reductase inhibitor that demonstrates FR-specific anti-inflammatory activities both in vitro and in vivo. Our data reveal that a relatively toxic anti-inflammatory drug, such as aminopterin, can be targeted with folic acid to inflammatory macrophages and thereby relieve inflammatory symptoms with greatly reduced toxicity. © 2011 Lu et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Lu, Y., Stinnette, T. W., Westrick, E., Klein, P. J., Gehrke, M. A., Cross, V. A., … Leamon, C. P. (2011). Treatment of experimental adjuvant arthritis with a novel folate receptor-targeted folic acid-aminopterin conjugate. Arthritis Research and Therapy, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.1186/ar3304