The aim of present study was to develop folic acid (FA)-modified nonionic surfactant vesicles (NISVs, niosomes) as carrier systems for targeted delivery of gambogenic acid (GNA). The FA-GNA-NISVs exhibited a mean particle size of 180.77 ± 2.41 nm with a narrow poly dispersion index of 0.147 ± 0.08 determined by dynamic light scattering. Transmission electron microscopy also revealed that the FA-GNA-NISVs were spherical with double-layer structure. Entrapment efficiency (EE%) and zeta potential of the optimal FA-GNA-NISVs were 87.84 ± 1.06% and -37.33 ± 0.33 mV, respectively. Differential scanning calorimetry demonstrated that the GNA was in a molecular or amorphous state inside the FA-NISVs in vitro release profiles suggested that FA-GNA-NISVs could release GNA at a sustained manner, and less than 60% of GNA was released from the FA-NISVs within 12 hours of dialysis. in vivo pharmacokinetic results illustrated that FA-GNA-NISVs had considerably higher Cmax , area under curve (AUC0 - t ) and accumulation in lung. The cell proliferation study shown that the FA-GNA-NISVs significantly enhanced the in vitro cytotoxicity against A549 cells. Flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy further demonstrated that the FA-GNA-NISVs increased apoptosis compared with nonmodified GNA-NISVs and free GNA. Moreover, FA-GNA-NISVs induced A549 cell apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, cellular uptake assays showed a higher uptake of FA-GNA-NISVs than GNA-NISVs as well as free GNA. Taken together, it could be concluded that FA-GNA-NISVs were proposed as a novel targeting carriers for efficient delivering of GNA to cancers cells.

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