Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Access Restrictions


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

First Advisor

Fiegel, Jennifer

First Committee Member

Donovan, Maureen D

Second Committee Member

Salem, Aliasger K

Third Committee Member

Stevens, Lewis L

Fourth Committee Member

Wurster, Dale E


Targeted delivery of drugs directly to the lung epithelium is a promising, though challenging, strategy for the treatment of diseases that affect the lung tissues, such as infections caused by cell-penetrating pathogens, cystic fibrosis, and cancer. With appropriate surface functionality, such as through the attachment of ligands that recognize receptors on cellular surfaces, particulate carriers show improved efficiency in penetrating cells in vitro. A useful class of ligands is produced by many natural human pathogens that infect the respiratory tract. A variety of phylogenetically distinct respiratory bacterial pathogens, such as Haemophilus influenzae, invade host cells in the upper airways by binding of the platelet-activating factor (PAF) receptor via lipooligosaccharide (LOS) glycoforms. By expressing host carbohydrate structures, including phosphorylcholine (ChoP), as a terminal structure on the LOS, the bacteria exhibit molecular mimicry of the host and are able to evade the host immune system. The effectiveness of LOS to induce cellular uptake of the bacteria is dependent on the specific glycoform, with higher ChoP content inducing more bacterial adherance into the lung epithelial. These ligands naturally expressed on bacterial cell surfaces can be isolated and utilized as targeting ligands for delivery vehicles. The studies described in this thesis focus on the development of particulate drug carriers coated with LOS bacterial ligands to enhance the targeting and binding of the carriers to the lung epithelium.

Three NTHi clinical isolates were screened to select the strain with the highest ChoP level, and NTHi 3198, an isolate from a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was selected due to its high ChoP activity. LOS from NTHi 3198 was isolated from the bacterial cell membrane, and its activity verified using dot immunoblot and ELISA techniques. Particles (0.2 and 1 µm) composed of polystyrene or poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) were passively coated with 0.005-50 µg/mL of the isolated LOS 3198 with or without gelatin, coated with gelatin alone, or left uncoated. The LOS coating on the particles was verified using either XPS or ELISA.

The association of particles with human bronchial epithelial cells was investigated using two cell culture models, 16HBE14o- and Calu-3, as a function of particle concentration and incubation time. The expression of PAFR on both cells types was confirmed, though the expression of PAFR on 16HBE14o- cells was significantly greater than on Calu-3 cells. Enhancement of 0.2 µm particle-cell association was achieved through coating of the particles with LOS. However, no significant difference in particle-cell association was observed for the 1 µm particles based on particle coating. Control particles of 0.2 µm size, those coated with gelatin (with or without LOS) or uncoated, exhibited low cell binding with a maximum of about 10-18% of cells associated with particles. The ability of the LOS ligand to enhance particle-cell association was coating concentration dependent, with a low coating concentration of LOS having little effect on association, but a concentration 1000-fold higher causing a doubling of the percentage of cells associated with particles at 24 hours. This enhancement was attributed to increased cellular binding of the 0.2 µm particles to the cell surface by confocal microscopy, and was further increased by activating the PAFR prior to incubation with particles. These results suggest the potential application of LOS as a targeting ligand for lung epithelial cells, especially under conditions where PAFR has been activated, such as occurs in lungs infected with Haemophilus influenzae. A significant reduction in particle-cell association was observed when particles were incubated with Calu-3 cells due to the presence of mucus on the cellular surface. This suggests that further optimization of the drug carrier system is needed to efficiently overcome the mucosal fluids.

Public Abstract

The bacterium Haemophilus influenzae is a major cause of respiratory infections in children and those with compromised immune systems. Since the bacteria are able to infect lung cells, current treatments for these bacterial infections are not efficient in killing all the bacteria, leading to prolonged infection and reoccurrence. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop drug carriers that can be inhaled into the lungs and deliver drugs directly to infected lung cells, thereby killing the bacteria where they reside and eliminating the infection. The goal of this study was to isolate key molecules from the bacterial surface known to mediate bacterial attachment to lung cells and to develop a safe and improved drug carrier containing these bacterial molecules to enhance the binding of the carrier to lung cells.

Lipooligosaccharides (LOS) that are expressed on the surface of Haemophilus influenzae were isolated from the bacteria and coated onto small polymeric particles. The binding of these coated particles to human lung epithelial cells was quantified and the molecular pathways used by the particles to associate with cells were investigated. Submicron particles were used due to their smaller size which allows better penetration through lung mucus and into lung epithelial cells. Results from this study suggest the potential application of LOS as a targeting ligand for lung epithelial cells, especially under conditions where the lung cell receptor, platelet activating factor receptor, has been activated, as would occur in lungs infected with Haemophilus influenzae.


lipooligosaccharide, lung cells, nanoparticle, pharmacy, pulmonary delivery, targeted delivery


xv, 229 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 214-229).


This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa:


Copyright © 2015 Mai H. Tu