Split luciferase-based estimation of cytosolic cargo concentration delivered intracellularly via attenuated cationic amphiphilic lytic peptides

Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2022 Sep 15:72:128875. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2022.128875. Epub 2022 Jul 4.


Intracellular delivery of biomacromolecules is challenging as these molecules are taken up by cells and encapsulated into vesicular compartments called endosomes, and the fraction of molecules that are translocated to the cytosol are particularly important to obtain desired biological responses. This study aimed to estimate the cytosolic concentrations of intracellularly delivered peptides and proteins to aid the design of novel and effective biopharmaceutical delivery systems. To this end, we employed the split NanoLuc luciferase system, using the 11-residue HiBiT peptide segment as a probe for the delivered molecules in cells expressing the complementary LgBiT protein segment. The efficacy in cytosolic HiBiT delivery was determined by measuring the resultant luciferase activity when the HiBiT segment delivered into the cytosol forms a complex with LgBiT. Mean cytosolic HiBiT concentration was calculated using cell number and cell volume analysis. L17E and HAad peptides, developed in our laboratory for intracellular protein delivery, yielded approximately 6-fold cellular HiBiT concentrations than that obtained in their absence.

Keywords: Attenuated cationic amphiphilic lytic (ACAL) peptide; Cytosolic concentration; Endosomal release; Intracellular delivery; Split-NanoLuc luciferase assay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cations / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Endosomes* / metabolism
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Peptides* / chemistry


  • Cations
  • Peptides
  • Luciferases
  • nanoluc