Therapeutic manipulation of the BCL-2 family using BH3 mimetics is an emerging paradigm in cancer treatment and immune modulation. For example, peptides mimicking the BIM BH3 helix can directly target the full complement of anti- and pro-apoptotic BCL-2 proteins to trigger apoptosis. This study has incorporated the potent BH3 α-helical death domain of BIM into peptide amphiphile (PA) nanostructures designed to facilitate cellular uptake and induce cell death. This study shows that these PA nanostructures are quickly incorporated into cells, are able to specifically bind BCL-2 proteins, are stable at physiologic temperatures and pH, and induce dose-dependent apoptosis in cells. The incorporation of a cathepsin B cleavable linker between the BIM BH3 peptide and the hydrophobic tail resulted in increased intracellular accumulation and mitochondrial co-localization of the BIM BH3 peptide while also improving BCL-2 family member binding and apoptotic reactivation. This PA platform represents a promising new strategy for intracellular therapeutic peptide delivery for the disruption of intracellular protein:protein interactions.
Keywords: BCL-2 family; BH3-only; BIM; apoptosis; cathepsin; peptide amphiphile; peptide therapeutics.