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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Jun 30;1712(2):161-72.

Effects of cargo molecules on the cellular uptake of arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptides.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA, 19081, USA.


The identification of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) as vectors for the intracellular delivery of conjugated molecules such as peptides, proteins, and oligonucleotides has emerged as a significant tool to modulate biological activities inside cells. The mechanism of CPP uptake by the cells is still unclear, and appears to be both endocytotic and non-endocytotic, depending on the CPP and cell type. Moreover, it is also unknown whether cargo sequences have an effect on the uptake and cellular distribution properties of CPP sequences. Here, we combine results from quantitative fluorescence microscopy and binding to lipid membrane models to determine the effect of cargo peptide molecules on the cellular uptake and distribution of the arginine-rich CPPs, R7, and R7W, in live cells. Image analysis algorithms that quantify fluorescence were used to measure the relative amount of peptide taken up by the cell, as well as the extent to which the uptake was endocytotic in nature. The results presented here indicate that fusion of arginine-rich CPPs to peptide sequences reduces the efficiency of uptake, and dramatically changes the cellular distribution of the CPP from a diffuse pattern to one in which the peptides are mostly retained in endosomal compartments.

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