Characterization of a class of cationic peptides able to facilitate efficient protein transduction in vitro and in vivo

Mol Ther. 2000 Oct;2(4):339-47. doi: 10.1006/mthe.2000.0137.


Protein transduction domains (PTDs), such as the third helix of the Drosophila Antennapedia homeobox gene (Antp) and the HIV TAT PTD, possess a characteristic positive charge on the basis of their enrichment for arginine and lysine residues. To determine whether cationic peptides are able to function as protein transduction domains, 12-mer peptide sequences from an M13 phage library were selected for synthesis on the basis of their varying cationic charge content. In addition, polylysine and polyarginine peptides were synthesized in order to assess the effect of charge contribution in protein transduction. Coupling of the biotinylated peptides to avidin-beta-galactosidase facilitated transduction in a wide variety of cell lines and primary cells, including islet beta-cells, synovial cells, polarized airway epithelial cells, dendritic cells, myoblasts, and tumor cells. Two of the peptides, PTD-4 and PTD-5, mediated transduction nearly 600-fold more efficiently than a random control peptide, but with an efficiency similar to the TAT PTD and the 12 mers of polylysine and polyarginine. Furthermore, confocal analysis of biotinylated peptide-streptavidin-Cy3 conjugates demonstrated that the internalized PTDs are found in both the nuclei and the cytoplasm of treated cells. When tested in vivo, the PTDs were able to facilitate efficient and rapid protein delivery into rabbit synovium and mouse solid tumors following intraarticular and intratumoral administration, respectively. These novel PTDs can be used to transfer therapeutic proteins and DNA for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases, including arthritis and cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cations
  • Cells, Cultured / enzymology
  • Fibrosarcoma / metabolism
  • Gene Products, tat / chemistry
  • Gene Products, tat / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Knee Joint / metabolism
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Peptide Fragments / therapeutic use
  • Rabbits
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Transduction, Genetic / methods*
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism
  • ran GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism


  • Cations
  • Gene Products, tat
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • ran GTP-Binding Protein