Fluorescent sterols monitor cell penetrating peptide Pep-1 mediated uptake and intracellular targeting of cargo protein in living cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Although cell-penetrating peptides (CPP) facilitate endocytic uptake of proteins, little is known regarding the extent to which CPPs facilitate protein cargo exit from endocytic vesicles for targeting to other intracellular sites. Since the plasma membrane and less so intracellular membranes contain cholesterol, the fluorescent sterol analogues dansyl-cholestanol (DChol) and dehydroergosterol (DHE) were used to monitor the uptake and intracellular distribution of fluorescent-tagged acyl coenzyme A binding protein (ACBP) into COS-7 cells and rat hepatoma cells. Confocal microscopy colocalized DChol and Texas Red-ACBP (TR-ACBP) with markers for the major endocytosis pathways, especially fluorescent-labeled cholera toxin (marker of ganglioside GM1 in plasma membrane lipid rafts) and dextran (macropinocytosis marker), but less so with transferrin (clathrin-mediated endocytosis marker). These findings were confirmed by multiphoton laser scanning microscopy colocalization of TR-ACBP with DHE (naturally-fluorescent sterol) and by double immunofluorescence labeling of native endogenous ACBP. Serum greatly and Pep-1 further 2.4-fold facilitated uptake of TR-ACBP, but neither altered the relative proportion of TR-ACBP colocalized with membranes/organelles (nearly 80%) vs cytoplasm and/or nucleoplasm (20%). Interestingly, Pep-1 selectively increased TR-ACBP associated with mitochondria while concomitantly decreasing that in endoplasmic reticulum. In summary, fluorescent sterols (DChol, DHE) were useful markers for comparing the distributions of both transported and endogenous proteins. Pep-1 modestly enhanced the translocation and altered the intracellular targeting of exogenous-delivered (TR-ACBP) in living cells.

published proceedings

  • Biochim Biophys Acta

author list (cited authors)

  • Petrescu, A. D., Vespa, A., Huang, H., McIntosh, A. L., Schroeder, F., & Kier, A. B.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Petrescu, Anca D||Vespa, Aude||Huang, Huan||McIntosh, Avery L||Schroeder, Friedhelm||Kier, Ann B

publication date

  • February 2009