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  • Characterization of bioactive cell penetrating peptides from human cytochrome c: protein mimicry and the development of a novel apoptogenic agent.

    6 March 2018

    Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) with intrinsic biological activities offer a novel strategy for the modulation of intracellular events. QSAR analysis identified CPPs within human cytochrome c. Two such sequences, Cyt c(77-101) and Cyt c(86-101), induced tumor cell apoptosis, thus mimicking the role of Cyt c as a key regulator of programmed cell death. Quantitative analyses confirmed that Cyt c(77-101) is an extremely efficient CPP. Thus, Cyt c(77-101) was selected for modification to incorporate target-specific peptidyl motifs. Chimeric N-terminal extension with a target mimetic of FG nucleoporins significantly enhanced the apoptogenic potency of Cyt c(77-101) to a concentration readily achievable in vivo. Moreover, this construct, Nup153-Cyt c, facilitates the dramatic redistribution of nuclear pore complex proteins and thus propounds the nuclear pore complex as a novel target for the therapeutic induction of apoptosis.

  • Exosomes for targeted siRNA delivery across biological barriers.

    19 March 2018

    Using oligonucleotide-based drugs to modulate gene expression has opened a new avenue for drug discovery. In particular small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are being rapidly recognized as promising therapeutic tools, but their poor bioavailability limits the full realization of their clinical potential. In recent years, cumulating evidence has emerged for the role of membrane vesicles, secreted by most cells and found in all body fluids, as key mediators of information transmission between cells. Importantly, a sub-group of these termed exosomes, have recently been shown to contain various RNA species and to mediate their horizontal transfer to neighbouring- or distant recipient cells. Here, we provide a brief overview on membrane vesicles and their role in exchange of genetic information. We also describe how these natural carriers of genetic material can be harnessed to overcome the obstacle of poor delivery and allow efficient systemic delivery of exogenous siRNA across biological barriers such as the blood-brain barrier.

  • Cellular internalization kinetics of (luciferin-)cell-penetrating peptide conjugates.

    2 February 2018

    Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) belong to a class of delivery vectors that have been extensively used for the cellular delivery of various, otherwise impermeable, macromolecules. However, results on the cellular internalization efficacy of CPPs obtained from various laboratories are sometimes challenging to compare because of differences in the experimental setups. Here, for the first time, the cellular uptake kinetics of eight well-established CPPs is compared in HeLa pLuc 705 cells using a recently published releasable luciferin assay. Using this assay, the kinetic behavior of cytosolic entry of these luciferin-CPP conjugates are registered in real time. Our data reveal that the uptake rate of CPPs reaches its maximum either in seconds or in tens of minutes, depending on the CPP used. Tat and higher concentrations of MAP and TP10 display fast internalization profiles that resemble the kinetic profile of membrane-permeable free luciferin. The uptake of the other peptides, pVec, penetratin, M918, and EB1, is much slower and is consistent with the reported observations of endocytosis being the predominant internalization mechanism. Additionally, to some extent, the latter CPPs can be clustered into subgroups which are based on time points when the most pronounced uptake rates are observed. This may indicate once more involvement of various (concentration dependent) mechanisms in the uptake of CPPs. In summary, the variances in the internalization profiles for the CPPs demonstrate the importance of measuring kinetics instead of only relying on simple end-point studies, and with the luciferin-CPP assay, more lucid information can be retrieved when studying the internalization mechanisms of CPPs.

  • Prediction of Cell-Penetrating Peptides Using Artificial Neural Networks.

    15 February 2018

    An investigation of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) by using combination of Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) and Principle Component Analysis (PCA) revealed that the penetration capability (penetrating/non-penetrating) of 101 examined peptides can be predicted with accuracy of 80%-100%. The inputs of the ANN are the main characteristics classifying the penetration. These molecular characteristics (descriptors) were calculated for each peptide and they provide bio-chemical insights for the criteria of penetration. Deeper analysis of the PCA results also showed clear clusterization of the peptides according to their molecular features.

  • Delivery of nucleic acids with a stearylated (RxR)4 peptide using a non-covalent co-incubation strategy.

    15 March 2018

    In recent years, oligonucleotide-based molecules have been intensely used to modulate gene expression. All these molecules share the common feature of being essentially impermeable over cellular membranes and they therefore require efficient delivery vectors. Cell-penetrating peptides are a group of delivery peptides that has been readily used for nucleic acid delivery. In particular, polyarginine and derivates thereof, i.e. the (RxR)(4) peptide, have been applied with success both in vitro and in vivo. A major problem, however, with these arginine-rich peptides is that they frequently remain trapped in endosomal compartments following internalization. The activity of polyarginine has previously been improved by conjugation to a stearyl moiety. Therefore, we sought to investigate what impact such modification would have on the pre-clinically used (RxR)(4) peptide for non-covalent delivery of plasmids and splice-correcting oligonucleotides (SCOs) and compare it with stearylated Arg9 and Lipofectamine 2000. We show that stearyl-(RxR)(4) mediates efficient plasmid transfections in several cell lines and the expression levels are significantly higher than when using unmodified (RxR)(4) or stearylated Arg9. Although the transfection efficiency is lower than with Lipofectamine 2000, we show that stearyl-(RxR)(4) is substantially less toxic. Furthermore, using a functional splice-correction assay, we show that stearyl-(RxR)(4) complexed with 2'-OMe SCOs promotes significant splice correction whereas stearyl-Arg9 fails to do so. Moreover, stearyl-(RxR)(4) promotes dose-dependent splice correction in parity with (RxR)(4)-PMO covalent conjugates, but at least 10-times lower concentration. These features make this stearic acid modified analog of (RxR)(4) an intriguing vector for future in vivo experiments.

  • Modulating Anti-MicroRNA-21 Activity and Specificity Using Oligonucleotide Derivatives and Length Optimization.

    12 December 2017

    MicroRNAs are short, endogenous RNAs that direct posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression vital for many developmental and cellular functions. Implicated in the pathogenesis of several human diseases, this group of RNAs provides interesting targets for therapeutic intervention. Anti-microRNA oligonucleotides constitute a class of synthetic antisense oligonucleotides used to interfere with microRNAs. In this study, we investigate the effects of chemical modifications and truncations on activity and specificity of anti-microRNA oligonucleotides targeting microRNA-21. We observed an increased activity but reduced specificity when incorporating locked nucleic acid monomers, whereas the opposite was observed when introducing unlocked nucleic acid monomers. Our data suggest that phosphorothioate anti-microRNA oligonucleotides yield a greater activity than their phosphodiester counterparts and that a moderate truncation of the anti-microRNA oligonucleotide improves specificity without significantly losing activity. These results provide useful insights for design of anti-microRNA oligonucleotides to achieve both high activity as well as efficient mismatch discrimination.

  • Novel viral vectors utilizing intron splice-switching to activate genome rescue, expression and replication in targeted cells.

    1 March 2018

    BACKGROUND: The outcome of virus infection depends from the precise coordination of viral gene expression and genome replication. The ability to control and regulate these processes is therefore important for analysis of infection process. Viruses are also useful tools in bio- and gene technology; they can efficiently kill cancer cells and trigger immune responses to tumors. However, the methods for constructing tissue- or cell-type specific viruses typically suffer from low target-cell specificity and a high risk of reversion. Therefore novel and universal methods of regulation of viral infection are also important for therapeutic application of virus-based systems. METHODS: Aberrantly spliced introns were introduced into crucial gene-expression units of adenovirus vector and alphavirus DNA/RNA layered vectors and their effects on the viral gene expression, replication and/or the release of infectious genomes were studied in cell culture. Transfection of the cells with splice-switching oligonucleotides was used to correct the introduced functional defect(s). RESULTS: It was demonstrated that viral gene expression, replication and/or the release of infectious genomes can be blocked by the introduction of aberrantly spliced introns. The insertion of such an intron into an adenovirus vector reduced the expression of the targeted gene more than fifty-fold. A similar insertion into an alphavirus DNA/RNA layered vector had a less dramatic effect; here, only the release of the infectious transcript was suppressed but not the subsequent replication and spread of the virus. However the insertion of two aberrantly spliced introns resulted in an over one hundred-fold reduction in the infectivity of the DNA/RNA layered vector. Furthermore, in both systems the observed effects could be reverted by the delivery of splice-switching oligonucleotide(s), which corrected the splicing defects. CONCLUSIONS: Splice-switch technology, originally developed for genetic disease therapy, can also be used to control gene expression of viral vectors. This approach represents a novel, universal and powerful method for controlling gene expression, replication, viral spread and, by extension, virus-induced cytotoxic effects and can be used both for basic studies of virus infection and in virus-based gene- and anti-cancer therapy.

  • Cell-penetrating peptides-based strategies for the delivery of splice redirecting antisense oligonucleotides.

    12 December 2017

    Progress in our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of human malignancies has provided therapeutic targets amenable to oligonucleotide (ON)-based strategies. Antisense ON-mediated splicing regulation in particular offers promising prospects since the majority of human genes undergo alternative splicing and since splicing defects have been found in many diseases. However, their implementation has been hampered so far by the poor bioavailability of nucleic acids-based drugs. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) now appear as promising non-viral delivery vector for non-permeant biomolecules. We describe here new CPPs allowing the delivery of splice redirecting steric-block ON using either chemical conjugation or non-covalent complexation. We also describe a convenient and robust splice redirecting assay which allows the quantitative assessment of ON nuclear delivery.

  • Peptide-based matrices as drug delivery vehicles.

    16 March 2018

    Peptides, polypeptides and proteins have been extensively studied for their various structural and functional roles in living organisms. However, breakthrough discoveries in the last decades identified some peptide-based matrices that posses the ability to traverse biological membranes, and many peptides, polypeptides and even complete proteins have been shown to have such properties. Hence, these matrices have been successfully used for the intracellular delivery of many therapeutic cargos including small molecules, proteins, peptides, oligonucleutides, plasmids and nanoparticles both in vitro and in vivo. Being neither toxic nor carcinogenic and meanwhile efficient in delivery, they are recognized as very promising vectors to overcome the shortcomings of the available technologies. The characteristics of these peptide-based matrices and their applications in drug delivery are here briefly illustrated together with current challenges and future prospects.

  • Design of a tumor homing cell-penetrating peptide for drug delivery

    26 February 2018

    The major drawbacks with conventional cancer chemotherapy are the lack of satisfactory specificity towards tumor cells and poor antitumor activity. In order to improve these characteristics, chemotherapeutic drugs can be conjugated to targeting moieties e.g. to peptides with the ability to recognize cancer cells. We have previously reported that combining a tumor homing peptide with a cell-penetrating peptide yields a chimeric peptide with tumor cell specificity that can carry cargo molecules inside the cells. In the present study, we have used a linear breast tumor homing peptide, CREKA, in conjunction with a cell-penetrating peptide, pVEC. This new chimeric peptide, CREKA-pVEC, is more convenient to synthesize and moreover it is better in translocating cargo molecules inside cancer cells as compared to previously published PEGA-pVEC peptide. This study demonstrates that CREKA-pVEC is a suitable vehicle for targeted intracellular delivery of a DNA alkylating agent, chlorambucil, as the chlorambucil-peptide conjugate was substantially better at killing cancer cells in vitro than the anticancer drug alone. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.