Photodamage of lipid bilayers by irradiation of a fluorescently labeled cell-penetrating peptide. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Fluorescently labeled cell-penetrating peptides can translocate into cells by endocytosis and upon light irradiation, lyse the endocytic vesicles. This photo-inducible endosomolytic activity of Fl-CPPs can be used to efficiently deliver macromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids and other small organic molecules into the cytosol of live cells. The requirement of a light trigger to induce photolysis provides a more spatial and temporal control to the intracellular delivery process. METHODS: In this report, we examine the molecular level mechanisms by which cell-penetrating peptides such as TAT when labeled with small organic fluorophore molecules acquire a photo-induced lytic activity using a simplified model of lipid vesicles. RESULTS: The peptide TAT labeled with 5(6)-carboxytetramethylrhodamine binds to negatively charged phospholipids, thereby bringing the fluorophore in close proximity to the membrane of liposomes. Upon light irradiation, the excited fluorophore produces reactive oxygen species at the lipid bilayer and oxidation of the membrane is achieved. In addition, the fluorescent peptide causes aggregation of photo-oxidized lipids, an activity that requires the presence of arginine residues in the peptide sequence. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the cell-penetrating peptide plays a dual role. On one hand, TAT targets a conjugated fluorophore to membranes. On the other hand, TAT participates directly in the destabilization of photosensitized membranes. Peptide and fluorophore therefore appear to act in synergy to destroy membranes efficiently. GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Understanding the mechanism behind Fl-CPP mediated membrane photodamage will help to design optimally photo-endosomolytic compounds.

published proceedings

  • Biochim Biophys Acta

author list (cited authors)

  • Meerovich, I., Muthukrishnan, N., Johnson, G. A., Erazo-Oliveras, A., & Pellois, J.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Meerovich, Igor||Muthukrishnan, Nandhini||Johnson, Gregory A||Erazo-Oliveras, Alfredo||Pellois, Jean-Philippe

publication date

  • January 2014