In vivo study of HIV-1 Tat arginine-rich motif unveils its transport properties

Mol Ther. 2007 Jul;15(7):1313-22. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2007 May 1.


Tat-derived peptides have attracted much interest as molecular carriers for intracellular delivery as they incorporate specific attributes required for efficient cargo delivery to sub-cellular domains. Little is known, however, about intracellular trafficking and interactions of Tat peptide-tagged cargoes, although some in vitro studies have suggested the relevance of active processes in Tat peptide-driven nuclear translocation. These issues are addressed by comparing Tat peptide-induced transport properties with well-established passive diffusion and active import benchmarks in living cells. Specifically, we examine several constructs of increasing molecular weight (MW) both below and above the threshold for passive diffusion through the nuclear pore. The resulting sub-cellular localization is analyzed by confocal imaging, and construct intracellular dynamics is investigated by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) real-time imaging. Our experiments yield the characteristic transport parameters of Tat peptide intra-cytoplasm dynamics and nucleus/cytoplasm shuttling. These results allow us to elucidate the mechanism of Tat peptide-driven nuclear permeation, demonstrating that it crosses the nuclear envelope (NE) by passive diffusion. Finally, we discuss the limitations of this route in terms of acceptable cargo size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Products, tat / chemistry
  • Gene Products, tat / genetics
  • Gene Products, tat / metabolism*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Photobleaching
  • Protein Engineering


  • Gene Products, tat
  • Arginine