Liposomes with diameters of 200 to 400 nm containing phosphatidylserine (PS) or phosphatidylglycerol (PG) were injected intravenously into rats. Two hours after injection, 75% of the injected dose of PS liposomes was found in the liver and only 10% found in the spleen, while 35% of the PG liposomes was found in the liver and as much as 40% was found in the spleen. Cell-isolation experiments revealed the following remarkable difference in the intrahepatic distribution between the two liposome formulations: the PS liposomes distributed in about equal amounts to Kupffer cells and hepatocytes, despite their size (200-400 nm) exceeding that of the endothelial fenestrae (average 150 nm), whereas the PG liposomes were only taken up by the Kupffer cells and not at all by the hepatocytes. Double-label studies, using liposomes in which the lipid-moiety was radio labeled with [3H]cholesteryloleylether ([3H]CE) and the water phase with [14C]sucrose, showed that the liposomes were taken up as intact particles. These observations were confirmed through electron microscopy by determining the in situ localization of liposome-encapsulated colloidal gold particles in thin sections of liver and spleen. The differences in organ distribution are ascribed to differences in opsonization patterns of the two liposomal surfaces. For the difference in intrahepatic distribution, we offer the following two explanations: the exploitation of the blood cell-mediated forced sieving concept and the indication of a PS-specific pharmacological effect on the dimensions of the fenestrations.
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