The ability of peptide nucleic acids (PNA) to enter and to cross filter-grown MDCK, HEK and CHO cells was studied by means of a protocol based on capillary electrophoresis combined with laser-induced fluorescence detection. The used approach avoided possible errors encountered in protocols based on confocal laserscanning microscopy and FACS analysis. In contradiction to the commonly anticipated unability of PNA to cross biomembranes, extensive translocation of unmodified PNA into and across the investigated cell types was found. The transport mode comprised a variety of energy dependent and -independent as well as temperature sensitive mechanisms being probably destined to natural substrates and hijacked by PNA. The presented results suggest active as well as passive export mechanisms rather than poor penetration into cells to be responsible for the only weak biological activity of unmodified PNA.
Keywords: Peptide nucleic acids, membrane permeability, transcytosis, transwell approach, cellular uptake, delivery across biomembranes, energy dependent and -independent transport, cell-type dependent transport, direction dependent transport
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