Achieving enhanced cell penetration of short conformationally constrained peptides through amphiphilicity tuning†
Due to their enhanced stability and cell permeability, cyclic cell-penetrating peptides have been widely used as delivery vectors for transporting cell-impermeable cargos into cells. In this study, we synthesized a panel of conformationally constrained peptides with either α-helix or β-hairpin conformations. We tuned the amphiphilicity of these constrained peptides with different distributions of charged or hydrophobic residues and compared their cellular uptake efficiencies in different cell lines. We found that the amphipathicity of these conformationally constrained peptides correlates well with their cellular uptake efficiency. We proposed that peptides with larger hydrophobic moments (HMs) have stronger binding affinities with the cell membrane which further accelerates the endocytosis process. This finding should provide an approach towards the design of more potent conformationally constrained cell-penetrating peptides for biomedical applications.