Transport of biologically active molecules across tight epithelial barriers is a major challenge preventing therapeutic peptides from oral drug delivery. Here, we identify a set of synthetic glycosphingolipids that harness the endogenous process of intracellular lipid-sorting to enable mucosal absorption of the incretin hormone GLP-1. Peptide cargoes covalently fused to glycosphingolipids with ceramide domains containing C6:0 or smaller fatty acids were transported with 20-100-fold greater efficiency across epithelial barriers in vitro and in vivo. This was explained by structure-function of the ceramide domain in intracellular sorting and by the affinity of the glycosphingolipid species for insertion into and retention in cell membranes. In mice, GLP-1 fused to short-chain glycosphingolipids was rapidly and systemically absorbed after gastric gavage to affect glucose tolerance with serum bioavailability comparable to intraperitoneal injection of GLP-1 alone. This is unprecedented for mucosal absorption of therapeutic peptides, and defines a technology with many other clinical applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)