Differences in Uptake and Intracellular Fate between Bevacizumab and Aflibercept after Repetitive Long-Term Treatment in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium


Anti-VEGF therapy is repeatedly given for an extended period of time to patients when treated for age-related macular degeneration. While short-term effects of anti-VEGF agents on retinal pigment epithelial cells have been investigated, the effects of long-term and repeated treatment on these cells are scarce. In this study, we have investigated the effects of anti-VEGF treatment (bevacizumab and aflibercept) after long-term, repeated treatment on uptake, storage, and subcellular localization.


Weekly treatment up to 12 weeks displayed no toxic effects on RPE cells in any substance tested. Intracellular signal of bevacizumab and aflibercept was strongest after 1 day, decreased after 1 and 4 weeks but increased again after 12 weeks. The signal of intracellular bevacizumab was significantly stronger than of aflibercept. In addition, in primary RPE, aflibercept was significantly more associated with Lamp2, indicating degradation of aflibercept. At all time points, the respective therapeutics could be detected at the cytoskeleton. In primary RPE cells, co-localization with exosome marker CD63 showed a maximum after 1 day for bevacizumab and after 12 weeks for aflibercept. Actin-encapsulated therapeutics can be found at any time point tested.


Both bevacizumab and aflibercept display a distinctive time-dependent uptake in the RPE cells and are stored in actin-covered accumulations for extended periods of time. When normalized and quantified, less aflibercept can be found in RPE cells, while more aflibercept is co-localized with Lamp2. Our data suggest that bevacizumab is differently processed by RPE cells than aflibercept.



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