Binding of cell-penetrating penetratin peptides to plasma membrane vesicles correlates directly with cellular uptake
Journal article, 2011

Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) gain access to intracellular compartments mainly via endocytosis and have capacity to deliver macromolecular cargo into cells. Although the involvement of various endocytic routes has been described it is still unclear which interactions are involved in eliciting an uptake response and to what extent affinity for particular cell surface components may determine the efficiency of a particular CPP. Previous biophysical studies of the interaction between CPPs and either lipid vesicles or soluble sugar-mimics of cell surface proteoglycans, the two most commonly suggested CPP binding targets, have not allowed quantitative correlations to be established. We here explore the use of plasma membrane vesicles (PMVs) derived from cultured mammalian cells as cell surface models in biophysical experiments. Further, we examine the relationship between affinity for PMVs and uptake into live cells using the CPP penetratin and two analogs enriched in arginines and lysines respectively. We show, using centrifugation to sediment PMVs, that the amount of peptide in the pellet fraction correlates linearly with the degree of cell internalization and that the relative efficiency of all-arginine and all-lysine variants of penetratin can be ascribed to their respective cell surface affinities. Our data show differences between arginine- and lysine-rich variants of penetratin that has not been previously accounted for in studies using lipid vesicles. Our data also indicate greater differences in binding affinity to PMVs than to heparin, a commonly used cell surface proteoglycan mimic. Taken together, this suggests that the cell surface interactions of CPPs are dependent on several cell surface moieties and their molecular organization on the plasma membrane. (C) 2011 Elsevier BM. All rights reserved.


Membrane affinity

Plasma membrane vesicles

arginine-rich peptides


Cell-penetrating peptide






enters cells


human immunodeficiency virus

tat peptide



Helene Åmand

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physical Chemistry

Carolina Boström

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physical Chemistry

Per Lincoln

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physical Chemistry

Bengt Nordén

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physical Chemistry

E. K. Esbjorner

University of Cambridge

Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes

0005-2736 (ISSN)

Vol. 1808 7 1860-1867

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (2010-2017)


Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)

Materials Science

Subject Categories

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology



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