Triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA) represents the core structure of most clinically used contrast agents for computed tomography and other X-ray procedures. To construct an intracellular radiopaque contrast agent, TIBA was coupled to various different positively and negatively charged fluorescein iothiocyanate (FITC)-labelled peptides. TIBA coupled to the SV40 T Antigen nuclear localization sequence (NLS) stained 80% of human glioma cells and caused cell death. This occurred with C- or N-terminal binding of TIBA and with the correct or mutant NLS. No cell death and only small numbers of stained cells (below 3 %) were observed after incubation with NLS conjugates lacking TIBA or after incubation with TIBA-conjugates containing a negatively charged polyglutamic acid stretch. TIBA-conjugates containing the Antennapedia-derived cell-penetrating peptide penetratin were only nuclearly taken up when TIBA and FITC were coupled to lysines outside the 16-amino acid peptide sequence. The study shows that intracellular TIBA may have potential as a chemotherapeutic agent rather than a contrast agent.
Keywords: 2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid, NLS, cell nucleus, FITC, transmembrane transport, glioma, penetratin, polyglutamic acid