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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2000 Jan 5;105(1):39-49.

Transport of model peptides across Ascaris suum cuticle.

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  • 1Pharmacia and Upjohn, Inc., Kalamazoo, MI 49001, USA.


Several FMRFamide-related peptides (FaRPs) found in nematodes exert potent excitatory or inhibitory effects on the somatic musculature of Ascaris suum and other nematode species when injected into the pseudocoelom or applied directly to isolated neuromuscular preparations. These peptides, however, generally fail to induce detectable effects on the neuromusculature when applied externally to intact nematodes. The apparent lack of activity for these peptides when administered externally in whole-organism assays is likely a function of both absorption and metabolism. To delineate the factors that govern transport of peptides across the cuticle/hypodermis complex of nematodes, we measured the rates of absorption of a series of structurally related model peptides using isolated cuticle/hypodermis segments from A. suum and two-chamber diffusion cells. [14C]-Labeled peptides were prepared from D-phenylalanine, with the amide nitrogens sequentially methylated to give AcfNH2, Acf3NH2, Acf(NMef)2NH2, and Ac(NMef)3NHMe. These model peptides were designed to allow systematic analysis of the influence of peptide size, hydrogen bonding and lipophilicity on transport. Results of these studies show that, within this series, permeability across the cuticle increases with addition of each methyl group. The permeability coefficient of Ac(NMef)3NHMe, with four methyl groups, was 10-fold greater than that of the smaller peptide, AcfNH2, even though both peptides contain five hydrogen bonds. When compared with vertebrate membranes, transport of the model peptides across A. suum cuticle was about 10-fold slower. A biophysical model for transcuticular transport of peptides predicted that nematode FaRPs, which are larger, less methylated and less lipophilic than the model peptides tested, would not be absorbed across the cuticle of nematodes. This prediction was confirmed for the excitatory FaRP, AF2 (KHEYLRFamide), which did not diffuse across the cuticle/hypodermis complex, but diffused rapidly across lipid-extracted cuticle preparations.

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