Identification of chondrocyte-binding peptides by phage display

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As an initial step toward targeting cartilage tissue for potential therapeutic applications, we sought cartilage-binding peptides using phage display, a powerful technology for selection of peptides that bind to molecules of interest. A library of phage displaying random 12-amino acid peptides was iteratively incubated with cultured chondrocytes to select phage that bind cartilage. The resulting phage clones demonstrated increased affinity to chondrocytes by ELISA, when compared to a wild-type, insertless phage. Furthermore, the selected phage showed little preferential binding to other cell types, including primary skin fibroblast, myocyte and hepatocyte cultures, suggesting a tissue-specific interaction. Immunohistochemical staining revealed that the selected phage bound chondrocytes themselves and the surrounding extracellular matrix. FITC-tagged peptides were synthesized based on the sequence of cartilage-binding phage clones. These peptides, but not a random peptide, bound cultured chondrocytes, and extracelluar matrix. In conclusion, using phage display, we identified peptide sequences that specifically target chondrocytes. We anticipate that such peptides may be coupled to therapeutic molecules to provide targeted treatment for cartilage disorders.

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