Conformation-switchable helical polypeptide eliciting selective pro-apoptotic activity for cancer therapy

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Artificial cationic helical peptides possess an enhanced cell-penetrating property. However, their cell-penetrability is not converted by cellular environmental changes resulting in nonspecific uptake. In this study, pH-sensitive anion-donating groups were added to a helical polypeptide to simultaneously achieve tumor targeting and pro-apoptotic activity. The mitochondria-destabilizing helical polypeptide undergoing pH-dependent conformational transitions selectively targeted cancer cells consequently disrupting mitochondrial membranes and subsequently inducing apoptosis. This work presents a promising peptide therapeutic system for cancer therapy.

Graphical abstract

Mitochondria-destabilizing helical polypeptide undergoing a pH-activated conformational transition selectively perturbed the mitochondrial outer membranes thereby inducing pro-apoptosis.

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