Poly-peptide molecules have shown promising applications in drug delivery and tumor targeting. A series of tumor homing peptides were designed by exhaustively sampling low energy geometrical basins of amino acids at specific sites of a peptide molecule to induce a conformational lock. This peptide library was pruned to a limited set of eight molecules, employing electrostatic interactions, docking, and molecular dynamics simulations. These designed and optimized peptides were synthesized and tested on various cell lines, including breast cancer (MDA-MB-231), cervical cancer (HeLa), osteosarcoma (U2-OS), and non-cancerous mammary epithelial cells (MCF-10A) using confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. Peptides show differential uptake in cancerous MDA-MB-231, HeLa, U2-OS, and non-cancerous MCF-10A cells. Confocal imaging verified their ability to penetrate even in 3D tumorospheres of MDA-MB-231 cells. Further, experiments of mitochondrial membrane potential depolarization and Caspase-3 activation confirmed that their cytotoxic effects are by apoptosis. Homing ability of the designed peptides in in vivo system and fluorescence imaging with clinical samples of human origin have further confirmed that the in vitro studies are qualitatively identical and quantitatively comparable in their ability to selectively recognize tumor cells. Overall, we present a roadmap for the functional programming of peptide-based homing and penetrating molecules that can perform selective tumor targeting.
Keywords: Cancer therapy; Drug design; Heterochiral peptides; RGD motif; Targeted drug delivery.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.