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Cellular Internalization of Quantum Dots Noncovalently Conjugated with Arginine-Rich Cell-Penetrating Peptides

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Protein transduction domains comprised of basic amino acid-rich peptides, can efficiently deliver covalently fused macromolecules into cells. Quantum dots (QDs) are luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals that are finding increasing application in biological imaging. Previous studies showed that protein transduction domains mediate the internalization of covalently attached QDs. In this study, we demonstrate that arginine-rich intracellular delivery peptides (cell-penetrating peptides; CPPs), analogs of naturally-occuring protein transduction domains, deliver noncovalently associated QDs into living cells; CPPs dramatically increase the rate and efficiency of cellular uptake of QD probes. The optimal molecular ratio between arginine-rich CPPs and QD cargoes for cellular internalization is approximately 60:1. Upon entry into cells, the QDs are concentrated in the perinuclear region. There is no cytotoxicity following transport of QDs present at concentrations up to 200 nM. The mechanism for arginine-rich CPP/QD complexes to traverse cell membrane appears to involve a combination of internalization pathways. These results provide insight into the mechanism of arginine-rich CPP delivery of noncovalently attached cargoes, and may provide a powerful tool for imaging in vivo.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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  • Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.
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