Delivery of bioactive, gel-isolated proteins into live cells.

PMID 12731017


The delivery of proteins into live cells is a promising strategy for the targeted modulation of protein-protein interactions and the manipulation of specific cellular functions. Cellular delivery can be facilitated by complexing the protein of interest with carrier molecules. Recently, an amphipatic peptide was identified, Pep-1 (KETWWETWWTE WSQPKKKRKV), which crosses the plasma membrane of many cell types to carry and deliver proteins as large as antibodies. Pep-1 effectively delivers proteins in solution; but Pep-1 is not suitable for delivering sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) isolated proteins because Pep-1 complexes with cargo proteins are destroyed by SDS. Here, we report cellular delivery of SDS-PAGE-isolated proteins, without causing cellular damage, by using a nonionic detergent, Triton X-100, as carrier. To determine the specificity of our method, we separated antibodies against different intracellular targets by nonreducing SDS-PAGE. Following electrophoresis, the antibody bands were detected by zinc-imidazole reverse staining, excised, in-gel refolded with Triton X-100, and eluted in detergent-free phosphate-buffered saline. When overlaid on cultured NIH 3T3 cells, the antibodies penetrated the cells localizing to their corresponding intracellular targets. These results are proof-of-principle for the delivery of gel-isolated bioactive proteins into cultured cells and suggest new ways for experimental protein therapy and for studying protein-protein interactions using gel-isolated protein.

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