- The feasibility of creating a s.c. depot for sustained protein delivery with the goal of enhancing antigen immunogenicity was investigated. The depot was designed as antigen-laden liposomes of hydrogenated egg phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol (1:1 molar ratio) encapsulated in alginate-poly(L-lysine) microcapsules and evaluated using iodinated bovine serum albumin (BSA) as a model antigen. The in vivo release behavior of the liposomes and microencapsulated liposomes (MELs) was evaluated from the BSA serum concentration profiles after s.c. injection into rats and the pharmacokinetic parameters of 125I-labeled BSA appearance after s.c. or i.v. injections of BSA in saline. Maximal BSA concentrations were detected 11 h after s.c. injection in all rats. The BSA serum concentrations decreased rapidly in rats injected with BSA in saline or Freund's adjuvant and less rapidly in rats injected with BSA in liposomes or MELs. Four to 5 weeks after injection, BSA-associated radioactivity was detected only in sera of rats injected with BSA in liposomes or MELs. Fifty days after injection, 50% of the originally injected BSA was recovered form the s.c. sites of rats injected with BSA in MELs; no radioactivity was recovered from the other three groups of rats. The antigen-reactive antibody levels induced in rats immunized with BSA in MELs were 2- to 3-fold higher than those obtained in rats immunized with BSA in liposomes, saline, or Freund's adjuvant. More significantly, high antibody levels were maintained for more than 150 days after a single injection of BSA in MELs, suggesting that MELs can serve as a long-term single-dose immunization vehicle.