Delivery of HIV-1 Nef Protein in Mammalian Cells Using Cell Penetrating Peptides as a Candidate Therapeutic Vaccine

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The HIV-1 Nef protein expressed early in viral life cycle has been known as a potent candidate for therapeutic vaccine development. Due to different cell barriers, various cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) such as Pep-1 and CADY-2 have been known to deliver biologically active proteins to cytoplasmic compartments via the plasma membrane. In current study, we firstly evaluated the efficiency of lentiviral vector (pCDH-CMV-MCS-EF1-cGFP-T2A-puro) and eukaryotic expression vector (pEGFP-N1) for expression of HIV-1 Nef protein in HEK-293T cells using TurboFect transfection reagent. Our results showed that both vectors can effectively express the Nef proteins within the target cell. The pEGFP-N1 was more effective than pCDH-GFP for protein expression. Furthermore, Nef protein was expressed in E. coli as GST-Nef fusion and transfected by the amphipathic CPPs including Pep-1 and CADY-2 into HEK-293T cells. The size and morphology of the GST-Nef/CPP complexes were evaluated by scanning electron microscopy, and Zetasizer. Our data indicated that the recombinant GST-Nef protein generated in BL21 strain migrated as a clear band of ~50 kDa in SDS-PAGE. The CPP/GST-Nef nanoparticles were formed with a diameter of below 200 nm and notably delivered into HEK-293T cells. Generally, the Nef protein was expressed in prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression systems using different vectors and efficiently transfected in mammalian cells using various delivery systems. The in vitro efficient delivery of HIV-1 Nef gene and also its protein supports the potential of Nef DNA constructs and CPPs as potent carriers of Nef protein for HIV vaccine design in Future.

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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome


Cell penetrating peptide


Human immunodeficiency virus


Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide electrophoresis


Scanning electron microscopy


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Correspondence to Azam Bolhassani.

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Jafarzade, B.S., Bolhassani, A., Sadat, S.M. et al. Delivery of HIV-1 Nef Protein in Mammalian Cells Using Cell Penetrating Peptides as a Candidate Therapeutic Vaccine. Int J Pept Res Ther 23, 145–153 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10989-016-9547-3

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  • HIV-1
  • Nef
  • Cell penetrating peptide
  • Transfection
  • In vitro gene expression
  • Eukaryotic and prokaryotic expression systems