Membrane interactions of cell-penetrating peptides probed by tryptophan fluorescence and dichroism techniques: Correlations of structure to cellular uptake
Journal article, 2006

This work reports on the binding and conformation of a series of CPPs in the bilayer membranes of large unilamellar vesicles and the effect of the presence of cholesterol. We show a negative correlation between alpha-helical structure and uptake efficiency for penetratin peptides where the two central arginine residues of penetratin are thought to be important for breaking the secondary structure. Penetratin alpha-helicity is also reduced upon incorporation of cholesterol into the membrane. Flow linear dichroism in the far-UV region shows that the penetratin peptides adopt a preferential orientation of the alpha-helix parallel to the bilayer, and the linear dichroism (LD) spectrum in the aromatic region indicates that the tryptophan residues are preferentially oriented parallel to the membrane. The Tat analogue TatP59W and the oligoarginine R7W, which are more efficient CPPs than penetratin, bind to membranes as random coils and do not show any orientation in LD, again indicating that alpha-helicity reduces uptake efficiency. Further, we observe large variations in tryptophan quantum yields for the five CPPs in this study and discuss this in terms of the ability to cause lipid rearrangement. Binding isotherms show that cholesterol increases the affinity of the peptide for the membrane, but tryptophan fluorescence lifetimes are essentially unaltered by incorporation of as much as 40 mol % cholesterol into the membrane, suggesting the absence of specific peptide-cholesterol interactions. Fluorescence emission maxima are insensitive to cholesterol and indicate that the peptide is positioned in the headgroup region. The results on peptide-membrane interactions are discussed in terms of possible uptake mechanisms.


Christina Hagelin

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physical Chemistry

Elin Esbjörner Winters

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


0006-2960 (ISSN) 1520-4995 (eISSN)

Vol. 45 24 7682-7692

Subject Categories

Chemical Sciences



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