A Macromolecular Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitor Prodrug Effectively Ameliorates Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Ulcerative Colitis in Mice

Gang Zhao, Xin Wei, Jianbo Wu, Derrick D. Eichele, Subodh M. Lele, Libin Yang, Fan Zhang, Dong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Tofacitinib (Tofa) has been approved for moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis (UC). To improve its therapeutic efficacy and limit dose-dependent toxicity, we developed a macromolecular prodrug of Tofa (P-Tofa). If the prodrug design improves the potency and duration of Tofa therapy, it would widen its therapeutic window, potentially leading to improved safety and better clinical management of UC. Methods: P-Tofa was synthesized by conjugating Tofa to N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide (HPMA) copolymer via a cleavable carbamate linker. DSS-induced UC mouse model were treated with Tofa (daily oral gavage, from day 8), P-Tofa (single intravenous administration on day 8, dose equivalent to Tofa treatment) and saline. Healthy mice were used as a positive control. The therapeutic efficacy was evaluated using disease activity index (DAI), endoscopic score and end-point histology. The optical imaging, immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry were used to understand P-Tofa’s working mechanism. Results: DAI results suggested that a single dose P-Tofa treatment was more efficacious than dose equivalent daily Tofa treatment. Endoscopic evaluation and histology analyses confirmed that while both P-Tofa and Tofa protected the colon, P-Tofa treated group was observed with better colon integrity with less tissue damage. Optical imaging, flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry results showed that P-Tofa passively targeted the inflamed colon and being retained via cellular sequestration. Conclusions: Single intravenous administration of P-Tofa was more effective than dose equivalent daily oral Tofa gavage in ameliorating DSS-induced colitis. This observed superior therapeutic efficacy may be attributed to P-Tofa’s passive targeting to and retention by the inflamed colon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number64
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • inflammation targeting
  • prodrug
  • tofacitinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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