Tat Peptide Is Capable of Importing Large Nanoparticles Across Nuclear Membrane in Digitonin Permeabilized Cells
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Understanding the capabilities and limitations of nuclear import is crucial to efficient delivery of macromolecules and nanoparticles for diagnosis and targeted therapy of diseases. Here we report the Tat peptide-mediated import of different cargos into cell nucleus, including dye-labeled streptavidin protein, 43 and 90 nm fluorescent beads, as well as ~20 nm quantum dots for kinetic measurements. Our results revealed significant differences between Tat- and NLS-mediated nuclear import: unlike delivery with the NLS, Tat peptide-based delivery is not inhibited by WGA blockage nor does it require ATP. Surprisingly, Tat peptide was able to import 90 nm beads into the nuclei of digitonin-permeabilized cells, suggesting that its interaction with the nuclear envelope follows a mechanism different from that of NLS. The import kinetics was quantified using Tat peptide-conjugated QDs, yielding a kinetic constant of 0.0085 s−1. Taken together, our results suggest that, compared with NLS, Tat peptide-mediated nuclear import is faster, follows a different pathway, and is capable of importing large nanoparticles. These results have significant implications for the development of new approaches for delivery of cargo into the nuclei of living cells.