Dr. Aguilar obtained his PhD degree in Immunochemistry from the School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dr. Aguilar pursued his post-doctoral training at the National institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD in the lab of the well-known cell biologist Dr. Juan Bonifacino. In 2005, after a period as Associate Research Scientist at The Johns Hopkins University (in Dr. Beverly Wendland lab), Dr. Aguilar joined the Faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University. There, his group studies the mechanisms linking endocytosis and signaling in health and disease. In order to pursue its research goals, the Aguilar lab routinely use biophysical, biochemical and genetic approaches.
The adjuvant therapy of choice for superficial bladder cancer is the intravesical instillation of live Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG). In spite of the fact that this therapy is the most effective treatment for superficial bladder cancer, intravesical administration of BCG is associated with high local morbidity and the potential for systemic infection. Therefore, there is a need for the development of safer, less toxic approaches to fight this disease. Since fibronectin attachment protein (FAP) is a key element in BCG retention and targeting to cells, we hypothesize that this protein can be used as targeting agent to deliver cytotoxic cargo for the treatment of bladder tumors. Here we evaluated the ability of bladder tumor cells to bind and endocytose FAP via fibronectin-integrin complexes. We found that micro-aggregation induced by an anti-FAP polyclonal antibody accelerated FAP uptake by bladder tumor cells. FAP-FBN-Integrin complexes were determined to be internalized via a clathrin-independent, caveolae-dependent mechanism. Further, once in the endosomal compartment, FAP was targeted to the lysosomal compartment with negligible recycling to the plasma membrane. Importantly, we demonstrated that FAP micro-aggregation and internalization could also be triggered by multivalent Ni2+NTA-bearing liposomes. Overall, our studies validate the use of FAP as a targeting vector and provide the foundations for the design of more effective, less toxic bladder cancer therapeutics.