Delivery of bioactive molecules into the cell: the Trojan horse approach

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2004 Oct;27(2):85-131. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2004.03.005.


In recent years, vast amounts of data on the mechanisms of neural de- and regeneration have accumulated. However, only in disproportionally few cases has this led to efficient therapies for human patients. Part of the problem is to deliver cell death-averting genes or gene products across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and cellular membranes. The discovery of Antennapedia (Antp)-mediated transduction of heterologous proteins into cells in 1992 and other "Trojan horse peptides" raised hopes that often-frustrating attempts to deliver proteins would now be history. The demonstration that proteins fused to the Tat protein transduction domain (PTD) are capable of crossing the BBB may revolutionize molecular research and neurobiological therapy. However, it was only recently that PTD-mediated delivery of proteins with therapeutic potential has been achieved in models of neural degeneration in nerve trauma and ischemia. Several groups have published the first positive results using protein transduction domains for the delivery of therapeutic proteins in relevant animal models of human neurological disorders. Here, we give an extensive review of peptide-mediated protein transduction from its early beginnings to new advances, discuss their application, with particular focus on a critical evaluation of the limitations of the method, as well as alternative approaches. Besides applications in neurobiology, a large number of reports using PTD in other systems are included as well. Because each protein requires an individual purification scheme that yields sufficient quantities of soluble, transducible material, the neurobiologist will benefit from the experiences of other researchers in the growing field of protein transduction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / genetics
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / administration & dosage
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Proteins / genetics


  • Proteins