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J Biol Chem. 2001 Feb 23;276(8):5836-40. Epub 2000 Nov 17.

Arginine-rich peptides. An abundant source of membrane-permeable peptides having potential as carriers for intracellular protein delivery.

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  • 1Institute for Chemical Research, Kyoto University, Uji, Kyoto 611-0011, Japan.


A basic peptide derived from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 Tat protein (positions 48-60) has been reported to have the ability to translocate through the cell membranes and accumulate in the nucleus, the characteristics of which are utilized for the delivery of exogenous proteins into cells. Based on the fluorescence microscopic observations of mouse macrophage RAW264.7 cells, we found that various arginine-rich peptides have a translocation activity very similar to Tat-(48-60). These included such peptides as the d-amino acid- and arginine-substituted Tat-(48-60), the RNA-binding peptides derived from virus proteins, such as HIV-1 Rev, and flock house virus coat proteins, and the DNA binding segments of leucine zipper proteins, such as cancer-related proteins c-Fos and c-Jun, and the yeast transcription factor GCN4. These segments have no specific primary and secondary structures in common except that they have several arginine residues in the sequences. Moreover, these peptides were able to be internalized even at 4 degrees C. These results strongly suggested the possible existence of a common internalization mechanism ubiquitous to arginine-rich peptides, which is not explained by a typical endocytosis. Using (Arg)(n) (n = 4-16) peptides, we also demonstrated that there would be an optimal number of arginine residues (n approximately 8) for the efficient translocation.

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