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DNA Repair (Amst). 2005 Apr 4;4(4):511-8. Epub 2005 Jan 13.

TAT-mediated protein transduction and targeted delivery of fusion proteins into mitochondria of breast cancer cells.

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Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, University of South Alabama, MSB 1200 Mobile, AL 36688, USA.


The protein transduction domain (PTD) from the HIV-1 TAT protein has been widely utilized to deliver biologically active macromolecules, including full-length proteins, into a variety of cell types in vitro and in vivo. Without additional targeting signals, the intracellular localization of the proteins delivered in this fashion appears to be cytoplasmic, nuclear or, as recently reported, endosomal. In this study, we show that the presence of the mitochondrial targeting signal (MTS) from hMnSOD on the N-terminus of TAT-fusion proteins directs them into mitochondria of breast cancer cells. We generated and purified fusion proteins containing GFP (MTS-GFP-TAT) or Exonuclease III (MTS-ExoIII-TAT) from Escherichia coli. The results of Western blots of subcellular fractions and fluorescent microscopic analyses revealed efficient protein transduction and mitochondrial localization of the fusion proteins. Specific exonuclease activity was found in the mitochondrial extracts isolated from MTS-ExoIII-TAT transduced cells. This increased exonuclease activity reduced the repair of mtDNA damage following oxidative stress. This diminished mtDNA repair led to a decrease in survival of breast cancer cells. Thus, the present study demonstrates the applicability of this new approach for intramitochondrial targeting of TAT-fusion proteins capable of modulating mitochondrial function and cell survival.

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