Recombinant proteins with cytosolic or nuclear activities are emerging as tools for interfering with cellular functions. Because such tools rely on vehicles for crossing the plasma membrane we developed a protein delivery system consisting in the assembly of pyridylthiourea-grafted polyethylenimine (πPEI) with affinity-purified His-tagged proteins pre-organized onto a nickel-immobilized polymeric guide. The guide was prepared by functionalization of an ornithine polymer with nitrilotriacetic acid groups and shown to bind several His-tagged proteins. Superstructures were visualized by electron and atomic force microscopy using 2 nm His-tagged gold nanoparticles as probes. The whole system efficiently carried the green fluorescent protein, single-chain antibodies or caspase 3, into the cytosol of living cells. Transduction of the protease caspase 3 induced apoptosis in two cancer cell lines, demonstrating that this new protein delivery method could be used to interfere with cellular functions.
Keywords: drug delivery; nanocarriers; protein delivery; proteins; self-assembly.
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