Cell-penetrating peptides do not cross mitochondrial membranes even when conjugated to a lipophilic cation: evidence against direct passage through phospholipid bilayers.

TitleCell-penetrating peptides do not cross mitochondrial membranes even when conjugated to a lipophilic cation: evidence against direct passage through phospholipid bilayers.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsRoss, MF, Filipovska, A, Smith, RAJ, Gait, MJ, Murphy, MP
JournalBiochem J
Volume383
IssuePt. 3
Pagination457-68
Date Published2004 Nov 01
ISSN1470-8728
KeywordsAmino Acid Sequence, Animals, Carrier Proteins, Cations, Cell-Penetrating Peptides, Cells, Cultured, Child, Preschool, Circumcision, Male, Fibroblasts, Gene Products, tat, Humans, Intracellular Membranes, Lipid Metabolism, Lipids, Male, Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Liver, Molecular Sequence Data, Molecular Weight, Penis, Peptide Nucleic Acids, Rats, Skin
Abstract

CPPs (cell-penetrating peptides) facilitate the cellular uptake of covalently attached oligonucleotides, proteins and other macromolecules, but the mechanism of their uptake is disputed. Two models are proposed: direct movement through the phospholipid bilayer and endocytic uptake. Mitochondria are a good model system to distinguish between these possibilities, since they have no vesicular transport systems. Furthermore, CPP-mediated delivery of macromolecules to the mitochondrial matrix would be a significant breakthrough in the study of mitochondrial function and dysfunction, and could also lead to new therapies for diseases caused by mitochondrial damage. Therefore we investigated whether two CPPs, penetratin and Tat, could act as mitochondrial delivery vectors. We also determined whether conjugation of the lipophilic cation TPP (triphenylphosphonium) to penetratin or Tat facilitated their uptake into mitochondria, since TPP leads to uptake of attached molecules into mitochondria driven by the membrane potential. Neither penetratin nor Tat, nor their TPP conjugates, are internalized by isolated mitochondria, indicating that these CPPs cannot cross mitochondrial phospholipid bilayers. Tat and TPP-Tat are taken up by cells, but they accumulate in endosomes and do not reach mitochondria. We conclude that CPPs cannot cross mitochondrial phospholipid bilayers, and therefore cannot deliver macromolecules directly to mitochondria. Our findings shed light on the mechanism of uptake of CPPs by cells. The lack of direct movement of CPPs through mitochondrial phospholipid bilayers, along with the observed endosomal accumulation of Tat and TPP-Tat in cells, makes it unlikely that CPPs enter cells by direct membrane passage, and instead favours cellular uptake via an endocytic pathway.

DOI10.1042/BJ20041095
Alternate JournalBiochem. J.
Citation Key10.1042/BJ20041095
PubMed ID15270716
PubMed Central IDPMC1133738