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Gout is an inflammatory arthritis due to the joint deposition of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals. Phagocytosis of MSU crystals by tissue macrophages results in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Colchicine use in gout is limited by severe toxicity. CD44 is a transmembrane glycoprotein that is highly expressed in tissue macrophages and may be involved in gout pathogenesis. The P6 peptide is a 20-amino acid residue peptide that binds to CD44. We hypothesized that the conjugation of colchicine to the P6 peptide would reduce its off-target cytotoxicity while preserving its anti-inflammatory effect. A modified version of P6 peptide and colchicine-P6 peptide conjugate were synthesized using Fmoc/tBu solid-phase and solution-phase chemistry, respectively. A glutaryl amide was used as a linker. The P6 peptide was evaluated for its binding to CD44, association, and internalization by macrophages. Cytotoxic effects of P6 peptide, colchicine, and colchicine-P6 peptide on macrophages were compared and the inhibition of ROS generation and interleukin-8 (IL-8) secretion in MSU-stimulated macrophages treated with P6 peptide, colchicine, or colchicine-P6 peptide was studied. We confirmed that the P6 peptide binds to CD44 and its association and internalization by macrophages were CD44-dependent. Colchicine (1, 10, and 25 µM) demonstrated a significant cytotoxic effect on macrophages while the P6 peptide and colchicine-P6 peptide conjugate (1, 10 and 25 µM) did not alter the viability of the macrophages. The P6 peptide (10 and 25 µM) reduced ROS generation and IL-8 secretion mediated by a reduction in MSU phagocytosis by macrophages. The colchicine-P6 peptide significantly reduced ROS generation and IL-8 secretion compared to the P6 peptide alone at 1 and 10 µM concentrations. Conjugation of colchicine to the P6 peptide reduced the cytotoxic effect of colchicine while preserving its anti-inflammatory activity.


This article was originally published in Molecules, volume 25, in 2019.


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