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The cellular delivery of cell-impermeable and water-insoluble molecules remains an ongoing challenge to overcome. Previously, we reported amphipathic cyclic peptides c[WR]4 and c[WR]5 consisting of alternate arginine and tryptophan residues as nuclear-targeting molecular transporters. These peptides contain an optimal balance of positive charge and hydrophobicity, which is required for interactions with the phospholipid bilayer to facilitate their application as a drug delivery system. To further optimize them, we synthesized and evaluated a multivalent tricyclic peptide as an efficient molecular transporter. The monomeric cyclic peptide building blocks were synthesized using Fmoc/tBu solid-phase chemistry and cyclization in the solution and conjugated with each other through an amide bond to afford the tricyclic peptide, which demonstrated modest antibacterial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli (E. coli) with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 64–128 μg/mL. The tricyclic peptide was found to be nontoxic up to 30 μM in the breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231). The presence of tricyclic peptide enhanced cellular uptakes of fluorescently-labeled phosphopeptide (F’-GpYEEI, 18-fold), anti-HIV drugs (lamivudine (F’-3TC), emtricitabine (F’-FTC), and stavudine (F’-d4T), 1.7–12-fold), and siRNA (3.3-fold) in the MDA-MB-231 cell lines.


This article was originally published in Pharmaceutics in 2020.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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