An l- to d-Amino Acid Conversion in an Endosomolytic Analog of the Cell-penetrating Peptide TAT Influences Proteolytic Stability, Endocytic Uptake, and Endosomal Escape. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) are well established as delivery agents for otherwise cell-impermeable cargos. CPPs can also theoretically be used to modulate intracellular processes. However, their susceptibility to proteolytic degradation often limits their utility in these applications. Previous studies have explored the consequences for cellular uptake of converting the residues in CPPs from l- to d-stereochemistry, but conflicting results have been reported and specific steps en route to intracellular activity have not been explored. Here we use dimeric fluorescence TAT as a model CPP to explore the broader consequences of l- to d-stereochemical conversion. We show that inversion of chirality provides protease resistance without altering the overall mode of cellular entry, a process involving endocytic uptake followed by endosomal escape and cytosolic access. However, whereas inversion of chirality reduces endocytic uptake, the d-peptide, once in the endosome, is significantly more prone to escape than its l-counterpart. Moreover, the d-peptide is retained in the cytosol of cells for several days, whereas the l-peptide is degraded within hours. Notably, while the l-peptide is relatively innocuous to cells, the d-peptide exerts a prolonged anti-proliferative activity. Together, our results establish connections between chirality, protease resistance, cellular penetration, and intracellular activity that may be useful for the development of future delivery agents with improved properties.

published proceedings

  • J Biol Chem

author list (cited authors)

  • Najjar, K., Erazo-Oliveras, A., Brock, D. J., Wang, T., & Pellois, J.

citation count

  • 57

complete list of authors

  • Najjar, Kristina||Erazo-Oliveras, Alfredo||Brock, Dakota J||Wang, Ting-Yi||Pellois, Jean-Philippe

publication date

  • January 2017