Cell penetrating peptide TAT can kill cancer cells via membrane disruption after attachment of camptothecin

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Attachment of traditional anticancer drugs to cell penetrating peptides is an effective strategy to improve their application in cancer treatment. In this study, we designed and synthesized the conjugates TAT-CPT and TAT-2CPT by attaching camptothecin (CPT) to the N-terminus of the cell penetrating peptide TAT. Interestingly, we found that TAT-CPT and especially TAT-2CPT could kill cancer cells via membrane disruption, which is similar to antimicrobial peptides. This might be because that CPT could perform as a hydrophobic residue to increase the extent of membrane insertion of TAT and the stability of the pores. In addition, TAT-CPT and TAT-2CPT could also kill cancer cells by the released CPT after they entered cells. Taken together, attachment of CPT could turn cell penetrating peptide TAT into an antimicrobial peptide with a dual mechanism of anticancer action, which presents a new strategy to develop anticancer peptides based on cell penetrating peptides.

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