A modified Tat peptide for selective intracellular delivery of macromolecules

Diarmaid J. Murphy, Brian Walker, Brett Greer, Patrick Harriott, S. Lorraine Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives The Tat peptide has been widely used for the intracellular delivery of macromolecules. The aim of this study was to modify the peptide to enable regulation of cellular uptake through a dependency on activation by proteases present in the local environment.

Methods The native Tat peptide sequence was altered to inhibit the initial interaction of the peptide with the cell membrane through the addition of the consensus sequence for urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA). uPA expression was characterised and semi-quantitatively rated in three cell lines (U251mg, MDA-MB-231 and HeLa). The modified peptide was incubated with both recombinant enzyme and with cells varying in uPA activity. Cellular uptake of the modified Tat peptide line was compared with that of the native peptide and rated according to uPA activity measured in each cell line.

Key findings uPA activity was observed to be high in U251mg and MDA-MB-231 and low in HeLa. In MDA-MB-231 and HeLa, uptake of the modified peptide correlated with the level of uPA expression detected (93 and 52%, respectively). In U251mg, however, the uptake of the modified peptide was much less (19% observed reduction) than the native peptide despite a high level of uPA activity detected.

Conclusions Proteolytic activation represents an interesting strategy for the targeted delivery of macromolecules using peptide-based carriers and holds significant potential for further exploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-618
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Issue number5
Early online date14 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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