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Enhancing cellular uptake of activable cell-penetrating peptide–doxorubicin conjugate by enzymatic cleavage

Authors Shi, Gao, Xiang, Qi X

Received 21 January 2012

Accepted for publication 11 February 2012

Published 26 March 2012 Volume 2012:7 Pages 1613—1621

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S30104

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2


Nian-Qiu Shi, Wei Gao, Bai Xiang, Xian-Rong Qi

Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, People's Republic of China

Abstract: The use of activable cell-penetrating peptides (ACPPs) as molecular imaging probes is a promising new approach for the visualization of enzymes. The cell-penetrating function of a polycationic cell-penetrating peptide (CPP) is efficiently blocked by intramolecular electrostatic interactions with a polyanionic peptide. Proteolysis of a proteinase-sensitive substrate present between the CPP and polyanionic peptide affords dissociation of both domains and enables the activated CPP to enter cells. This ACPP strategy could also be used to modify antitumor agents for tumor-targeting therapy. Here, we aimed to develop a conjugate of ACPP with antitumor drug doxorubicin (DOX) sensitive to matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9 (MMP-2/9) for tumor-targeting therapy purposes. The ACPP-DOX conjugate was successfully synthesized. Enzymatic cleavage of ACPP-DOX conjugate by matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2/9 indicated that the activation of ACPP-DOX occurred in an enzyme concentration–dependent manner. Flow cytometry and laser confocal microscope studies revealed that the cellular uptake of ACPP-DOX was enhanced after enzymatic-triggered activation and was higher in HT-1080 cells (overexpressed MMPs) than in MCF-7 cells (under-expressed MMPs). The antiproliferative assay showed that ACPP had little toxicity and that ACPP-DOX effectively inhibited HT-1080 cell proliferation. These experiments revealed that the ACPP-DOX conjugate could be triggered by MMP-2/9, which enabled the activated CPP-DOX to enter cells. ACPP-DOX conjugate may be a potential prodrug delivery system used to carry antitumor drugs for MMP-related tumor therapy.

Keywords: activable cell-penetrating peptide, matrix metalloproteinase, proteinase-sensitive substrate, cellular uptake, antiproliferative, enzymatic cleavage, tumor extracellular environment

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