Background: For improved uptake of oligonucleotide-based therapy, the oligonucleotides often are coupled to peptides that facilitate entry into cells. To this end, novel cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) were designed for mediating intracellular uptake of oligonucleotide-based therapeutics. The novel peptides were based on taking advantage of the nuclear localization properties of transcription factors in combination with a peptide that would bind putatively to cell surfaces. It was observed that adding a glutamate peptide to the N-terminus of the nuclear localization signal (NLS) of the Oct6 transcription factor resulted in a novel CPP with better uptake and better nuclear colocalization than any other peptide tested.Results: Uptake of the novel peptide Glu-Oct6 by cancer cell lines was rapid (in less than 1 hr, more than 60% of DU-145 cells were positive for FITC), complete (by 4 hr, 99% of cells were positive for FITC), concentration-dependent, temperature-dependent, and inhibited by sodium azide (NaN3). Substitution of Phe, Tyr, or Asn moieties for the glutamate portion of the novel peptide resulted in abrogation of novel CPP uptake; however none of the substituted peptides inhibited uptake of the novel CPP when coincubated with cells. Live-cell imaging and analysis by imaging flow cytometry revealed that the novel CPP accumulated in nuclei. Finally, the novel CPP was coupled to a carboxyfluorescein-labeled synthetic oligonucleotide, to see if the peptide could ferry a therapeutic payload into cells.Conclusions: These studies document the creation of a novel CPP consisting of a glutamate peptide coupled to the N-terminus of the Oct6 NLS; the novel CPP exhibited nuclear colocalization as well as uptake by prostate and pancreatic cancer cell lines.
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