The use of multiple peptide motifs to provide effective gene delivery holds great promise as an elegant, nonimmunogenic approach to gene therapy. The molecular understanding of cell and viral biology provides a strong foundation on which to pursue this objective. Synthetic peptides containing multiple lysines and/or arginines (occasionally ornithines) provide natural polycations for multivalent electrostatic binding of DNA, and for DNA compaction into particles suitable for gene delivery. These cationic peptides can incorporate additional functional motifs (e.g. for translocating DNA into the nucleus) and they can be linked by disulphide bonds to produce high molecular reducible polycations with superior properties for gene therapy. Many factors influence the size, surface charge and stability of peptide/DNA particles. For in vivo use, uncharged particles resistant to disruption by salt and protein, and targeted to tissue-specific membrane molecules, will be required. Entry into the cell is via one of the endocytic pathways, depending on particle size and (in principle) the target cell surface molecule. Peptide motifs for endocytic escape are based mainly on the anionic fusogenic peptide of influenza virus haemagglutinin and on histidine-rich peptides (where the buffering properties of the imidazole group cause osmotic swelling and probably rupture of endocytic vesicles). Once in the cytosol, translocation of DNA plasmids across the nuclear pore complex into the nucleus is a crucial step, because most target cells for gene therapy are either non-dividing or slowly dividing. Nuclear translocation can be achieved by classical nuclear localising motifs, or more simply by (Lys)16 and other cationic peptides.
Keywords: Peptide, gene therapy, endocytosis, fusogenic peptide, histidine, haemagglutinin, nuclear translocation, targeting
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport