Journal of medicinal chemistry

Enzyme-targeted fluorescent imaging probes on a multiple antigenic peptide core.

PMID 16854078


Peptide dendrimers have a variety of applications in biology such as the vehicles for drug and gene delivery, molecular inhibitors, protein mimics, and synthetic vaccines. The multiple antigenic peptide (MAP) system is a well-known example of a discrete, dendrimeric scaffold. We explored a novel application of the MAP-based scaffold by designing molecular probes that fluoresce only after enzymatic treatment. The probes, which were synthesized on solid support, incorporate a cathepsin S dipeptide substrate (Leu-Arg), and a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) chain in their dendritic arms. The fluorescence emission of the near-infrared fluorochromes attached to the N-termini of the dendritic arms was quenched. Mechanistic studies revealed formation of H-type dye aggregates within the tetravalent MAP system. By varying the length of the PEG chain, three probes were synthesized, CyPEG-1, CyPEG-2, and CyPEG-3 with 4, 8, and 12 ethylene oxide units, respectively. CyPEG-2 showed optimum aqueous solubility and quenching efficiency for imaging applications. Upon proteolytic activation with cathepsin S (EC, CyPEG-2 showed greater than 70-fold increase and more than 95% recovery in fluorescence emission.