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Nat Biotechnol. 2001 Dec;19(12):1173-6.

A peptide carrier for the delivery of biologically active proteins into mammalian cells.

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Centre de Recherches de Biochimie Macromoléculaire, UPR-1086 CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France.


The development of peptide drugs and therapeutic proteins is limited by the poor permeability and the selectivity of the cell membrane. There is a growing effort to circumvent these problems by designing strategies to deliver full-length proteins into a large number of cells. A series of small protein domains, termed protein transduction domains (PTDs), have been shown to cross biological membranes efficiently and independently of transporters or specific receptors, and to promote the delivery of peptides and proteins into cells. TAT protein from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) is able to deliver biologically active proteins in vivo and has been shown to be of considerable interest for protein therapeutics. Similarly, the third alpha-helix of Antennapedia homeodomain, and VP22 protein from herpes simplex virus promote the delivery of covalently linked peptides or proteins into cells. However, these PTD vectors display a certain number of limitations in that they all require crosslinking to the target peptide or protein. Moreover, protein transduction using PTD-TAT fusion protein systems may require denaturation of the protein before delivery to increase the accessibility of the TAT-PTD domain. This requirement introduces an additional delay between the time of delivery and intracellular activation of the protein. In this report, we propose a new strategy for protein delivery based on a short amphipathic peptide carrier, Pep-1. This peptide carrier is able to efficiently deliver a variety of peptides and proteins into several cell lines in a fully biologically active form, without the need for prior chemical covalent coupling or denaturation steps. In addition, this peptide carrier presents several advantages for protein therapy, including stability in physiological buffer, lack of toxicity, and lack of sensitivity to serum. Pep-1 technology should be extremely useful for targeting specific protein-protein interactions in living cells and for screening novel therapeutic proteins.

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