Quantitation of the tumor-targeting properties of antibody fragments conjugated to cell-permeating HIV-1 TAT peptides

Bioconjug Chem. Jul-Aug 2002;13(4):729-36. doi: 10.1021/bc025517+.


Human monoclonal antibodies are promising agents for the development of more selective anticancer therapeutics. However, the tumor-targeting efficiency of most anticancer antibodies is severely limited by their poor penetration into the tumor mass. Recent studies have shown that a peptide derived from the HIV TAT protein could improve the distribution of cytoplasmic reporter proteins when administered systemically as fusion proteins or cross-linked chimeras. In this article, we tested by quantitative biodistribtution analysis whether conjugation to TAT peptides could improve the tumor targeting properties of scFv(L19)-Cys: an engineered human antibody fragment specific for the ED-B domain of fibronectin, a marker located in the modified extracellular matrix surrounding tumor neovasculature. Our results show that TAT peptides, consisting either of L-amino acids or D-amino acids, can efficiently transduce target cells when conjugated to fluorophores and/or antibody fragments, suggesting a receptor-independent cell entry mechanism. However, conjugation of scFv(L19)-Cys to TAT peptides resulted in a severely reduced tumor targeting performance compared to the unconjugated antibody, as measured in murine F9 teratocarcinoma-bearing mice, after intravenous injection of the radiolabeled antibody preparations. Our results outline the usefulness of TAT peptides for the efficient in vitro transduction of cells with globular proteins. In particular, the use of TAT peptides composed of D-amino acids may significantly reduce proteolytic degradation. At the same time, the poor biodistribution properties of antibody-TAT conjugates cast doubts over the applicability of this methodology for the delivery of biopharmaceuticals in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / therapeutic use
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Fibronectins / immunology
  • Gene Products, tat / pharmacokinetics*
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / administration & dosage*
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / therapeutic use
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacokinetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Teratocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccines, DNA / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Fibronectins
  • Gene Products, tat
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vaccines, DNA