Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), especially wet AMD with choroidal neovascularization (CNV), commonly causes blindness in older patients and disruption of the choroid followed by second-wave injuries, including chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and excessive matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9) expression. Increased macrophage infiltrate in parallel with microglial activation and MMP9 overexpression on CNV lesions is shown to contribute to the inflammatory process and then enhance pathological ocular angiogenesis. Graphene oxide quantum dots (GOQDs), as natural antioxidants, exert anti-inflammatory effects and minocycline is a specific macrophage/microglial inhibitor that can suppress both macrophage/microglial activation and MMP9 activity. Herein, an MMP9-responsive GOQD-based minocycline-loaded nano-in-micro drug delivery system (C18PGM) is developed by chemically bonding GOQDs to an octadecyl-modified peptide sequence (C18-GVFHQTVS, C18P) that can be specifically cleaved by MMP9. Using a laser-induced CNV mouse model, the prepared C18PGM shows significant MMP9 inhibitory activity and anti-inflammatory action followed by antiangiogenic effects. Moreover, C18PGM combined with antivascular endothelial growth factor antibody bevacizumab markedly increases the antiangiogenesis effect by interfering with the “inflammation-MMP9-angiogenesis” cascade. The prepared C18PGM shows a good safety profile and no obvious ophthalmic or systemic side effects. The results taken together suggest that C18PGM is an effective and novel strategy for combinatorial therapy of CNV.
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