Cargo-dependent cytotoxicity and delivery efficacy of cell-penetrating peptides: a comparative study.
ABSTRACT: The use of CPPs (cell-penetrating peptides) as delivery vectors for bioactive molecules has been an emerging field since 1994 when the first CPP, penetratin, was discovered. Since then, several CPPs, including the widely used Tat (transactivator of transcription) peptide, have been developed and utilized to translocate a wide range of compounds across the plasma membrane of cells both in vivo and in vitro. Although the field has emerged as a possible future candidate for drug delivery, little attention has been given to the potential toxic side effects that these peptides might exhibit in cargo delivery. Also, no comprehensive study has been performed to evaluate the relative efficacy of single CPPs to convey different cargos. Therefore we selected three of the major CPPs, penetratin, Tat and transportan 10, and evaluated their ability to deliver commonly used cargos, including fluoresceinyl moiety, double-stranded DNA and proteins (i.e. avidin and streptavidin), and studied their effect on membrane integrity and cell viability. Our results demonstrate the unfeasibility to use the translocation efficacy of fluorescein moiety as a gauge for CPP efficiency, since the delivery properties are dependent on the cargo used. Furthermore, and no less importantly, the toxicity of CPPs depends heavily on peptide concentration, cargo molecule and coupling strategy.
Project description:Protein therapy holds great promise for treating a variety of diseases. To act on intracellular targets, therapeutic proteins must cross the plasma membrane. This has previously been achieved by covalent attachment to a variety of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs). However, there is limited information on the relative performance of CPPs in delivering proteins to cells, specifically the cytosol and other intracellular locations. Here we use green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a model cargo to compare delivery capacity of five CPP sequences (Penetratin, R8, TAT, Transportan, Xentry) and cyclic derivatives in different human cell lines (HeLa, HEK, 10T1/2, HepG2) representing different tissues. Confocal microscopy analysis indicates that most fusion proteins when incubated with cells at 10 µM localise to endosomes. Quantification of cellular uptake by flow cytometry reveals that uptake depends on both cell type (10T1/2 > HepG2 > HeLa > HEK), and CPP sequence (Transportan > R8 > Penetratin≈TAT > Xentry). CPP sequence cyclisation or addition of a HA-sequence increased cellular uptake, but fluorescence was still contained in vesicles with no evidence of endosomal escape. Our results provide a guide to select CPP for endosomal/lysosomal delivery and a basis for developing more efficient CPPs in the future.
Project description:Peptides and analogs such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are promising tools and therapeutics, but the cell membrane remains a barrier to intracellular targets. Conjugation to classical cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) such as pTat<sub>48-60</sub> (tat) and pAntp<sub>43-68</sub> (penetratin) facilitates delivery; however, efficiencies are low. Lack of explicit design principles hinders rational improvement. Here, we use synthetic molecular evolution (SME) to identify gain-of-function CPPs with dramatically improved ability to deliver cargoes to cells at low concentration. A CPP library containing 8192 tat/penetratin hybrid peptides coupled to an 18-residue PNA is screened using the HeLa pTRE-LucIVS2 splice correction reporter system. The daughter CPPs identified are one to two orders of magnitude more efficient than the parent sequences at delivery of PNA, and also deliver a dye cargo and an anionic peptide cargo. The significant increase in performance following a single iteration of SME demonstrates the power of this approach to peptide sequence optimization.
Project description:Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) have tremendous potential for use in gene and drug delivery applications. The selection of new CPPs with desired capabilities from randomized peptide libraries is challenging, since the CPP phenotype is a complex selection target. Here we report the discovery of an unusual new CPP from a randomized peptide library using a functional selection system based on plasmid display (PD). After four rounds of screening of a 14-mer peptide library over PC12 cells, several peptides were identified and tested for their ability to deliver the green fluorescent protein (GFP). One peptide (SG3) exhibited a cell penetrating phenotype; however, unlike other well-known CPPs such as TAT or Penetratin, the newly identified peptide was not highly cationic. The PD protocol necessitated the addition of a cationic lipid (Lipofectamine2000), and in the presence of this compound, the SG3 peptide significantly outperformed the well-known TAT CPP in the delivery of GFP to PC12 cells and primary astrocytes. When the SG3 peptide was fused to the pro-apoptotic BH3 peptide from the Bak protein, significant cell death was induced in cultured primary astrocytes, indicating relevant, intracellular delivery of a functional cargo. The PD platform is a useful method for identifying functional new CPPs from randomized libraries with unique delivery capabilities.
Project description:The trans-activation response (TAR) RNA stem-loop that occurs at the 5' end of HIV RNA transcripts is an important antiviral target and is the site of interaction of the HIV-1 Tat protein together with host cellular factors. Oligonucleotides and their analogues targeted to TAR are potential antiviral candidates. We have investigated a range of cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugates of a 16mer peptide nucleic acid (PNA) analogue targeted to the apical stem-loop of TAR and show that disulfide-linked PNA conjugates of two types of CPP (Transportan or a novel chimeric peptide R6-Penetratin) exhibit dose-dependent inhibition of Tat-dependent trans-activation in a HeLa cell assay when incubated for 24 h. Activity is reached within 6 h if the lysosomotropic reagent chloroquine is co-administered. Fluorescein-labelled stably-linked conjugates of Tat, Transportan or Transportan TP10 with PNA were inactive when delivered alone, but attained trans-activation inhibition in the presence of chloroquine. Confocal microscopy showed that such fluorescently labelled CPP-PNA conjugates were sequestered in endosomal or membrane-bound compartments of HeLa cells, which varied in appearance depending on the CPP type. Co-administration of chloroquine was seen in some cases to release fluorescence from such compartments into the nucleus, but with different patterns depending on the CPP. The results show that CPP-PNA conjugates of different types can inhibit Tat-dependent trans-activation in HeLa cells and have potential for development as antiviral agents. Endosomal or membrane release is a major factor limiting nuclear delivery and trans-activation inhibition.
Project description:Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) can transport macromolecular cargos into live cells. However, the cellular delivery efficiency of these reagents is often suboptimal because CPP-cargo conjugates typically remain trapped inside endosomes. Interestingly, irradiation of fluorescently labeled CPPs with light increases the release of the peptide and its cargos into the cytosol. However, the mechanism of this phenomenon is not clear. Here we investigate the molecular basis of the photo-induced endosomolytic activity of the prototypical CPPs TAT labeled to the fluorophore 5(6)-carboxytetramethylrhodamine (TMR).We report that TMR-TAT acts as a photosensitizer that can destroy membranes. TMR-TAT escapes from endosomes after exposure to moderate light doses. However, this is also accompanied by loss of plasma membrane integrity, membrane blebbing, and cell-death. In addition, the peptide causes the destruction of cells when applied extracellularly and also triggers the photohemolysis of red blood cells. These photolytic and photocytotoxic effects were inhibited by hydrophobic singlet oxygen quenchers but not by hydrophilic quenchers.Together, these results suggest that TAT can convert an innocuous fluorophore such as TMR into a potent photolytic agent. This effect involves the targeting of the fluorophore to cellular membranes and the production of singlet oxygen within the hydrophobic environment of the membranes. Our findings may be relevant for the design of reagents with photo-induced endosomolytic activity. The photocytotoxicity exhibited by TMR-TAT also suggests that CPP-chromophore conjugates could aid the development of novel Photodynamic Therapy agents.
Project description:Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) have been used to deliver nucleotide-based therapeutics to cells, but this approach has produced mixed results. Ionic interactions and covalent bonds between the CPPs and the cargos may inhibit the effectiveness of the CPPs or interfere with the bioactivity of the cargos.We have created a bifunctional chimeric protein that binds DNA using the p50 domain of the NF-kappaB transcription factor and is functionalized for delivery with the TAT CPP. The green fluorescent protein (GFP) has been incorporated for tracking delivery. The new chimeric protein, p50-GFP-TAT, was compared to p50-GFP, GFP-TAT and GFP as controls for the ability to transduce PC12 cells with and without oligonucleotide cargos.The p50-GFP-TAT construct can deliver 30 bp and 293 bp oligonucleotides to PC12 cells with an optimal ratio of 1.89 protein molecules per base pair of DNA length. This correlation was validated through the delivery of a fluorescent protein transgene encoded in a plasmid to PC12 cells. Thus, self-assembling CPP-based bifunctional fusion proteins can be engineered for the non-viral delivery of nucleotide-based cargos to mammalian cells.This work represents an important step forward in the rational design of protein-based systems for the delivery of macromolecular cargos.
Project description:Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are peptides that can be translocated into cells and used as a carrier platform for the intracellular uptake of cargo molecules. Subject to the source of CPP sequences and their positively charged nature, the cytotoxicity and immunogenicity of conventional CPPs needs to be optimized to expand their utility for biomedical applications. In addition to these safety issues, the stability of CPPs needs to be addressed since their positively charged residues are prone to interact with the biological milieu. As an effort to overcome these limitations of the current CPP technology, we isolated CPP candidate sequences and synthesized peptides from twelve isoforms of annexin, a family of membrane-interacting human proteins. The candidate screen returned a CPP rich in hydrophobic residues that showed more efficient cellular uptake than TAT-CPP. We then investigated the uptake mechanism, subcellular localization, and biophysical properties of the newly found CPP, verifying low cytotoxicity, long-term serum stability, and non-immunogenicity. Finally, model proteins conjugated to this peptide were successfully delivered into mammalian cells both in vitro and in vivo, indicating a potential use of the peptide as a carrier for the delivery of macromolecular cargos.
Project description:Cell penetrating peptides have long held great potential for delivery of biomolecular cargos for research, therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. They allow rapid, relatively nontoxic passage of a wide variety of biomolecules through the plasma membranes of living cells. However, CPP-based research tools and therapeutics have been stymied by poor efficiency in release from endosomes and a great deal of effort has been made to solve this 'endosomal escape problem.' Previously, we showed that use of a reversible, noncovalent coupling between CPP and cargo using calmodulin and a calmodulin binding motif allowed efficient delivery of cargo proteins to the cytoplasm in baby hamster kidney and other mammalian cell lines. The present report demonstrates the efficacy of our CPP-adaptor scheme for efficient delivery of model cargos to the cytoplasm using a variety of CPPs and adaptors. Effective overcoming of the endosomal escape problem is further demonstrated by the delivery of cargo to the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes by addition of appropriate subcellular localization signals to the cargos. CPP-adaptors were also used to deliver cargo to myotubes, demonstrating the feasibility of the system as an alternative to transfection for the manipulation of hard-to-transfect cells.
Project description:Three cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs), Tat, Pep-3 and penetratin, were split into two parts and each fragment was terminated with a cysteine residue, to allow disulfide bridge formation, as well as a fluorescent label, for visualization and quantitative analysis. After disulfide formation between two complementary CPP fragments, cellular uptake of the resulting conjugates was observed. As confirmed by in vitro experiments, the conjugated peptides showed uptake activity comparable to the native CPP sequences, while the truncated peptides were hardly active. Until now, this split CPP strategy has only been demonstrated for oligo-arginine CPPs, but here we demonstrate that it is also applicable to other cell-penetrating peptides. This wider applicability may help in the design of new activatable cell-penetrating peptides for, e.g., targeted drug delivery.
Project description:Complications arising from Preterm Birth are the leading causes of neonatal death globally. Current therapeutic strategies to prevent Preterm Birth are yet to demonstrate success in terms of reducing this neonatal disease burden. Upregulation of intracellular inflammatory pathways in uterine cells, including those involving nuclear factor kappa-B (NF?B), have been causally linked to both human term and preterm labor, but the barrier presented by the cell membrane presents an obstacle to interventions aimed at dampening these inflammatory responses. Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are novel vectors that can traverse cell membranes without the need for recognition by cell surface receptors and offer the ability to deliver therapeutic cargo internal to cell membranes. Using a human uterine cell culture inflammatory model, this study aimed to test the effectiveness of CPP-cargo delivery to inhibit inflammatory responses, comparing this effect with a small molecule inhibitor (Sc514) that has a similar intracellular target of action within the NF?B pathway (the IKK complex). The CPP Penetratin, conjugated to rhodamine, was able to enter uterine cells within a 60 min timeframe as assessed by live confocal microscopy, this phenomena was not observed with the use of a rhodamine-conjugated inert control peptide (GC(GS)<sub>4</sub>). Penetratin CPP conjugated to an IKK-inhibitory peptide (Pen-NBD) demonstrated ability to inhibit both the IL1?-induced expression of the inflammatory protein COX2 and dampen the expression of a bespoke array of inflammatory genes. Truncation of the CPP vector rendered the CPP-cargo conjugate much less effective, demonstrating the importance of careful vector selection. The small molecule inhibitor Sc514 also demonstrated ability to inhibit COX2 protein responses and a broad down-regulatory effect on uterine cell inflammatory gene expression. These results support the further exploration of either CPP-based or small molecular treatment strategies to dampen gestational cell inflammatory responses in the context of preterm birth. The work underlines both the importance of careful selection of CPP vector-cargo combinations and basic testing over a broad time and concentration range to ensure effective responses. Further work should demonstrate the effectiveness of CPP-linked cargos to dampen alternative pathways of inflammation linked to Preterm Birth such as MAP Kinase or AP1.