Non-Covalent Carrier Hydrophobicity as a Universal Predictor of Intracellular Protein Activity.

TitleNon-Covalent Carrier Hydrophobicity as a Universal Predictor of Intracellular Protein Activity.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsHango, CR, Backlund, CM, Davis, HC, Posey, ND, Minter, LM, Tew, GN
Date Published2021 07 12
KeywordsBiological Transport, Cell-Penetrating Peptides, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Polymers, Protein Transport

Over the past decade, extensive optimization of polymeric cell-penetrating peptide (CPP) mimics (CPPMs) by our group has generated a substantial library of broadly effective carriers which circumvent the need for covalent conjugation often required by CPPs. In this study, design rules learned from CPPM development were applied to reverse-engineer the first library of simple amphiphilic block copolypeptides for non-covalent protein delivery, namely, poly(alanine--arginine), poly(phenylalanine--arginine), and poly(tryptophan--arginine). This new CPP library was screened for enhanced green fluorescent protein and Cre recombinase delivery alongside a library of CPPMs featuring equivalent side-chain configurations. Due to the added hydrophobicity imparted by the polymer backbone as compared to the polypeptide backbone, side-chain functionality was not a universal predictor of carrier performance. Rather, overall carrier hydrophobicity predicted the top performers for both internalization and activity of protein cargoes, regardless of backbone identity. Furthermore, comparison of protein uptake and function revealed carriers which facilitated high gene recombination despite remarkably low Cre internalization, leading us to formalize the concept of intracellular availability (IA) of the delivered cargo. IA, a measure of cargo activity per quantity of cargo internalized, provides valuable insight into the physical relationship between cellular internalization and bioavailability, which can be affected by bottlenecks such as endosomal escape and cargo release. Importantly, carriers with maximal IA existed within a narrow hydrophobicity window, more hydrophilic than those exhibiting maximal cargo uptake. Hydrophobicity may be used as a scaffold-independent predictor of protein uptake, function, and IA, enabling identification of new, effective carriers which would be overlooked by uptake-based screening methods.

Alternate JournalBiomacromolecules
PubMed ID34156837
Grant ListT32 GM008515 / GM / NIGMS NIH HHS / United States