Histidine-rich designer peptides of the LAH4 family promote cell delivery of a multitude of cargo

J Pept Sci. 2017 Apr;23(4):320-328. doi: 10.1002/psc.2955. Epub 2017 Jan 9.


The histidine-rich designer peptides of the LAH4 family exhibit potent antimicrobial, transfection, transduction and cell-penetrating properties. They form non-covalent complexes with their cargo, which often carry a negative overall charge at pH 7.4 and include a large range of molecules and structures such as oligonucleotides, including siRNA and DNA, peptides, proteins, nanodots and adeno-associated viruses. These complexes are thought to enter the cells through an endosomal pathway where the acidification of the organelle is essential for efficient endosomal escape. Biophysical measurements indicate that, upon acidification, almost half the peptides are released from DNA cargo, leading to the suggestion of a self-promoted uptake mechanism where the liberated peptides lyse the endosomal membranes. LAH4 derivatives also help in cellular transduction using lentiviruses. Here, we compare the DNA transfection activities of LAH4 derivatives, which vary in overall charge and/or the composition in the hydrophobic core region. In addition, LAH4 is shown to mediate the transport of functional β-galactosidase, a large tetrameric protein of about 0.5 MDa, into the cell interior. Interestingly, the LAH1 peptide efficiently imports this protein, while it is inefficient during DNA transfection assays. Copyright © 2017 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: DNA transfection; amphipathic helix; cell-penetrating peptide; endosomal membrane; histidine; phosphatidylserine; phospholipid bilayer; protein transduction.

MeSH terms

  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / chemistry*
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / metabolism*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Histidine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Transport
  • Transfection / methods*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • beta-Galactosidase / chemistry
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism*


  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides
  • Histidine
  • DNA
  • beta-Galactosidase