The importance of valency in enhancing the import and cell routing potential of protein transduction domain-containing molecules

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Mar;1758(3):355-63. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2005.11.016. Epub 2005 Dec 21.


Protein transduction domains (PTDs) are peptides that afford the internalization of cargo macromolecules (including plasmid DNA, proteins, liposomes, and nanoparticles). In the case of polycationic peptides, the efficiency of PTDs to promote cellular uptake is directly related to their molecular mass or their polyvalent presentation. Similarly, the efficiency of routing to the nucleus increases with the number of nuclear localization signals (NLS) associated with a cargo. The quantitative enhancement, however, depends on the identity of the PTD sequence as well as the targeted cell type. Thus the choice and multivalent presentation of PTD and NLS sequences are important criteria guiding the design of macromolecules intended for specific intracellular localization. This review outlines synthetic and recombinant strategies whereby PTDs and signal sequences can be assembled into multivalent peptide dendrimers and promote the uptake and routing of their cargoes. In particular, the tetramerization domain of the tumour suppressor p53 (p53tet) is emerging as a useful scaffold to present multiple routing and targeting moieties. Short cationic peptides fused to the 31-residue long p53tet sequence resulted in tetramers displaying a significant enhancement (up to 1000 fold) in terms of their ability to be imported into cells and delivered to the cell nucleus in relation to their monomeric analogues. The design of future polycationic peptide dendrimers as effective delivering vehicles will need to incorporate selective cell targeting functions and provide solutions to the issue of endosomal entrapment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / analysis
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / chemistry*
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / genetics
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles / analysis
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles / chemistry*
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / chemistry*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics


  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Peptides
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53