Ferritin-Displayed GLP-1 with Improved Pharmacological Activities and Pharmacokinetics

Wencheng Su, Huanbo Tan, Robert Janowski, Wenyu Zhang, Pengju Wang, Jie Zhang, Huanhuan Zhai, Jian Li, Dierk Niessing, Michael Sattler, Peijian Zou

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8 Scopus citations


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an incretin (a type of metabolic hormone that stimulates a decrease in blood glucose levels), holding great potential for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). However, its extremely short half-life of 1-2 min hampers any direct clinical application. Here, we describe the application of the heavy chain of human ferritin (HFt) nanocage as a carrier to improve the pharmacological properties of GLP-1. The GLP-HFt was designed by genetic fusion of GLP-1 to the N-terminus of HFt and was expressed in inclusion bodies in E. coli. The refolding process was developed to obtain a soluble GLP-HFt protein. The biophysical properties determined by size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), dynamic light scattering (DLS), circular dichroism (CD), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and X-ray crystallography verified that the GLP-HFt successfully formed a 24-mer nanocage with GLP-1 displayed on the external surface of HFt. The in vivo pharmacodynamic results demonstrated that the GLP-HFt nanocage retained the bioactivity of natural GLP-1, significantly reduced the blood glucose levels for at least 24 h in a dose-dependent manner, and inhibited food intake for at least 8-10 h. The half-life of the GLP-HFt nanocage was approximately 52 h in mice after subcutaneous injection. The prolonged half-life and sustained control of blood glucose levels indicate that the GLP-HFt nanocage can be further developed for the treatment of T2DM. Meanwhile, the HFt nanocage proves its great potential as a universal carrier that improves the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of a wide range of therapeutic peptides and proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1663-1673
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 4 May 2020


  • bioactivities
  • diabetes
  • ferritin
  • glucagon-like peptide-1
  • half-life


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