Allergic asthma (AA) is a common breathing disorder clinically characterized by the high occurrence of acute and continuous inflammation. However, the current treatment options for AA are lacking in effectiveness and diversity. In this study, we determined that the cell membrane receptor of gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) was highly overexpressed on the inflammatory cells that infiltrate the pulmonary tissues in AA cases. Therefore, we developed a GGT-specific dendrimer-dexamethasone conjugate (GSHDDC) that could be administered via aerosol inhalation to treat AA in a rapid and sustained manner. The GSHDDC was fabricated by the covalent attachment of 6-hydroxyhexyl acrylate-modified dexamethasone to polyamidoamine dendrimers via a carbonic ester linkage and the amino Michael addition, followed by the surface modification of the dendrimers with the GGT substrate of glutathione. After aerosol inhalation by the AA mice, the small particle-sized GSHDDC could easily diffuse into pulmonary alveoli and touch with the inflammatory cells via the glutathione ligand/GGT receptor-mediated recognition. The overexpressed GGT on the surface of inflammatory cells then triggers the gamma-glutamyl transfer reactions of glutathione to generate positively charged primary amines, thereby inducing rapid cationization-mediated cellular endocytosis into the inflammatory cells. The dexamethasone was gradually released by the intracellular enzyme hydrolysis, enabling sustained anti-inflammatory effects (e.g., reducing eosinophil infiltration, decreasing the levels of inflammatory factors) in the ovalbumin-induced AA mice. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of an inhalational and active inflammatory cells-targeted dendrimer-dexamethasone conjugate for efficient AA therapy.

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