Vascular endothelium plays strategic roles in many drug delivery paradigms, both as an important therapeutic target itself and as a barrier for reaching tissues beyond the vascular wall. Diverse means are being developed to improve vascular drug delivery including stealth liposomes and polymer carriers. Affinity carriers including antibodies or peptides that specifically bind to endothelial surface determinants, either constitutive or pathological, enhance targeting of drugs to endothelial cells (EC) in diverse vascular areas. In many cases, binding to endothelial surface determinants facilitates internalization of the drug / carrier complex. There are several main endocytic pathways in EC, including clathrin- and caveoli-mediated endocytosis, phagocytosis and macropinocytosis (these two are less characteristic of generic EC) and the recently described Cell Adhesion Molecule (CAM)-mediated endocytosis. The latter may be of interest for intracellular drug delivery to EC involved in inflammation or thrombosis. The metabolism and effects of internalized drugs largely depend on the routes of intracellular trafficking, which may lead to degrading lysosomal compartments or other organelles, recycling to the plasma membrane or transcytosis to the basal surface of endothelium. The latter route, characteristic of caveoli-mediated endocytosis, may serve for trans-endothelial drug delivery. Paracellular trafficking, which can be enhanced under pathological conditions or by auxiliary agents, represents an alternative for transcytosis. Endothelial surface determinants involved in endocytosis, mechanisms of the latter and trafficking pathways, as well as specific characteristics of EC in different vascular areas, are discussed in detail in the context of modern paradigms of vascular drug delivery.
drug delivery, vascular endothelium, endocytosis, transcytosis, paracellular transport, intracellular trafficking
IFEM, University ofPennsylvania Medical Center, 1 John Morgan Building, 3620 HamiltonWalk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6068, USA