Synthetic molecular evolution of hybrid cell penetrating peptides.
ABSTRACT: 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 pTat48-60 (tat) and pAntp43-68 (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: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:Sequence-specific interference with the nuclear pre-mRNA splicing machinery has received increased attention as an analytical tool and for development of therapeutics. It requires sequence-specific and high affinity binding of RNaseH-incompetent DNA mimics to pre-mRNA. Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphoramidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) are particularly suited as steric block oligonucleotides in this respect. However, splicing correction by PNA or PMO conjugated to cell penetrating peptides (CPP), such as Tat or Penetratin, has required high concentrations (5-10 microM) of such conjugates, unless an endosomolytic agent was added to increase escape from endocytic vesicles. We have focused on the modification of existing CPPs to search for peptides able to deliver more efficiently splice correcting PNA or PMO to the nucleus in the absence of endosomolytic agents. We describe here R6-Penetratin (in which arginine-residues were added to the N-terminus of Penetratin) as the most active of all CPPs tested so far in a splicing correction assay in which masking of a cryptic splice site allows expression of a luciferase reporter gene. Efficient and sequence-specific correction occurs at 1 muM concentration of the R6Pen-PNA705 conjugate as monitored by luciferase luminescence and by RT-PCR. Some aspects of the R6Pen-PNA705 structure-function relationship have also been evaluated.
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: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:Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) have recently attracted much interest due to their apparent ability to penetrate cell membranes in an energy-independent manner. Here molecular-dynamics simulation techniques were used to study the interaction of two CPPs: penetratin and the TAT peptide with 1,2-Dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) and 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) phospolipid bilayers shed light on alternative mechanisms by which these peptides might cross biological membranes. In contrast to previous simulation studies of charged peptides interacting with lipid bilayers, no spontaneous formation of transmembrane pores was observed. Instead, the simulations suggest that the peptides may enter the cell by micropinocytosis, whereby the peptides induce curvature in the membrane, ultimately leading to the formation of small vesicles within the cell that encapsulate the peptides. Specifically, multiple peptides were observed to induce large deformations in the lipid bilayer that persisted throughout the timescale of the simulations (hundreds of nanoseconds). Pore formation could be induced in simulations in which an external potential was used to pull a single penetratin or TAT peptide into the membrane. With the use of umbrella-sampling techniques, the free energy of inserting a single penetratin peptide into a DPPC bilayer was estimated to be approximately 75 kJmol(-1), which suggests that the spontaneous penetration of single peptides would require a timescale of at least seconds to minutes. This work also illustrates the extent to which the results of such simulations can depend on the initial conditions, the extent of equilibration, the size of the system, and the conditions under which the simulations are performed. The implications of this with respect to the current systems and to simulations of membrane-peptide interactions in general are discussed.
Project description:The use of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) as drug carriers for targeted therapy is limited by the unrestricted cellular translocation of CPPs. The preferential induction of tumor cell death by penetratin (Antp)-directed peptides (PNC27 and PNC28), however, suggests that the CPP Antp may contribute to the preferential cytotoxicity of these peptides. Using PNC27 as a molecular model, we constructed three novel peptides (PT, PR9, and PD3) by replacing the leader peptide Antp with one of three distinct CPPs (TAT, R9, or DPV3), respectively. The IC(50) values of PNC27 in tumor cells were 2-3 times lower than in normal cells. However, all three engineered peptides demonstrated similar cytotoxic effects in tumor and normal cells. Another three chimeric peptides containing the leader peptide Antp with different mitochondria-disrupting peptides (KLA-Antp (KGA), B27-Antp (BA27), and B28-Antp (BA28)), preferentially induced apoptosis in tumor cells. The IC(50) values of these peptides (3-10 microM) were 3-6 times lower in tumor cells than in normal cells. In contrast, TAT-directed peptides (TAT-KLA (TK), TAT-B27 (TB27), and TAT-B28 (TB28)), were cytotoxic to both tumor and normal cells. These data demonstrate that the leader peptide Antp contributes to the preferential cytotoxicity of Antp-directed peptides. Furthermore, Antp-directed peptides bind chondroitin sulfate (CS), and the removal of endogenous CS reduces the cytotoxic effects of Antp-directed peptides in tumor cells. The overexpression of CS in tumor cells is positively correlated to the cell entry and cytotoxicity of Antp- directed peptides. These results suggest that CS overexpression in tumor cells is an important molecular portal that mediates the preferential cytotoxicity of Antp-directed peptides.
Project description:Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are potentially attractive antisense agents against hepatitis B virus (HBV), although poor cellular uptake limits their therapeutic application. In the duck HBV (DHBV) model, we evaluated different cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) for delivery to hepatocytes of a PNA-targeting hepadnaviral encapsidation signal (?). This anti-? PNA exhibited sequence-specific inhibition of DHBV RT in a cell-free system. Investigation of the best in vivo route of delivery of PNA conjugated to (D-Arg)<sub>8</sub> (P1) showed that intraperitoneal injection to ducklings was ineffective, whereas intravenously (i.v.) injected fluorescein-P1-PNA reached the hepatocytes. Treatment of virus carriers with i.v.-administered P1-PNA resulted in a decrease in viral DNA compared to untreated controls. Surprisingly, a similar inhibition of viral replication was observed in vivo as well as in vitro in primary hepatocyte cultures for a control 2 nt mismatched PNA conjugated to P1. By contrast, the same PNA coupled to (D-Lys)<sub>4</sub> (P2) inhibited DHBV replication in a sequence-specific manner. Interestingly, only P1, but not P2, displayed anti-DHBV activity in the absence of PNA cargo. Hence, we provide new evidence that CPP-PNA conjugates inhibit DHBV replication following low-dose administration. Importantly, our results demonstrate the key role of CPPs used as vehicles in antiviral specificity of CPP-PNA conjugates.
Project description:Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) are small peptides capable of crossing cellular membranes while carrying molecular cargo. Although they have been widely studied for their ability to translocate nucleic acids, small molecules, and proteins into mammalian cells, studies of their interaction with fungal cells are limited. In this work, we evaluated the translocation of eleven fluorescently labeled peptides into the important human fungal pathogens Candida albicans and C. glabrata and explored the mechanisms of translocation. Seven of these peptides (cecropin B, penetratin, pVEC, MAP, SynB, (KFF)3 K, and MPG) exhibited substantial translocation (>80% of cells) into both species in a concentration-dependent manner, and an additional peptide (TP-10) exhibiting strong translocation into only C. glabrata. Vacuoles were involved in translocation and intracellular trafficking of the peptides in the fungal cells and, for some peptides, escape from the vacuoles and localization in the cytosol were correlated to toxicity toward the fungal cells. Endocytosis was involved in the translocation of cecropin B, MAP, SynB, MPG, (KFF)3 K, and TP-10, and cecropin B, penetratin, pVEC, and MAP caused membrane permeabilization during translocation. These results indicate the involvement of multiple translocation mechanisms for some CPPs. Although high levels of translocation were typically associated with toxicity of the peptides toward the fungal cells, SynB was translocated efficiently into Candida cells at concentrations that led to minimal toxicity. Our work highlights the potential of CPPs in delivering antifungal molecules and other bioactive cargo to Candida pathogens.
Project description:Nanobodies are well-established targeting ligands for molecular imaging and therapy. Their short circulation time enables early imaging and reduces systemic radiation exposure. However, shorter circulation time leads to lower tracer accumulation in the target tissue. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) improve cellular uptake of various cargoes, including nanobodies. CPPs could enhance tissue retention without compromising rapid clearance. However, systematic investigations on how the functionalities of nanobody and CPP combine with each other at the level of 2D and 3D cell cultures and in vivo are lacking. Here, we demonstrate that conjugates of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-binding nanobody 7D12 with different CPPs (nonaarginine, penetratin, Tat and hLF) differ with respect to cell binding and induction of endocytosis. For nonaarginine and penetratin we compared the competition of EGF binding and performance of L- and D-peptide stereoisomers, and tested the D-peptide conjugates in tumor cell spheroids and in vivo. The D-peptide conjugates showed better penetration into spheroids than the unconjugated 7D12. Both in vivo and in vitro, the behavior of the agent reflects the combination of both functionalities. Although CPPs cause promising increases in in vitro uptake and 3D penetration, the dominant effect of the CPP in the control of biodistribution warrants further investigation.
Project description:The mechanism of cell-penetrating peptides entry into cells is unclear, preventing the development of more efficient vectors for biotechnological or therapeutic purposes. Here, we developed a protocol relying on fluorometry to distinguish endocytosis from direct membrane translocation, using Penetratin, TAT and R9. The quantities of internalized CPPs measured by fluorometry in cell lysates converge with those obtained by our previously reported mass spectrometry quantification method. By contrast, flow cytometry quantification faces several limitations due to fluorescence quenching processes that depend on the cell line and occur at peptide/cell ratio >6.10<sup>8</sup> for CF-Penetratin. The analysis of cellular internalization of a doubly labeled fluorescent and biotinylated Penetratin analogue by the two independent techniques, fluorometry and mass spectrometry, gave consistent results at the quantitative and qualitative levels. Both techniques revealed the use of two alternative translocation and endocytosis pathways, whose relative efficacy depends on cell-surface sugars and peptide concentration. We confirmed that Penetratin translocates at low concentration and uses endocytosis at high μM concentrations. We further demonstrate that the hydrophobic/hydrophilic nature of the N-terminal extremity impacts on the internalization efficiency of CPPs. We expect these results and the associated protocols to help unraveling the translocation pathway to the cytosol of cells.