Multifunctional prenylated peptides for live cell analysis

James W. Wollack, Nicholette A. Zeliadt, Daniel G. Mullen, Gregg Amundson, Suzanne G Jasberg, Stacy Falkum, Elizabeth V Wattenberg, George Barany, Mark D Distefano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Protein prenylation is a common post-translational modification present in eukaryotic cells. Many key proteins involved in signal transduction pathways are prenylated, and inhibition of prenylation can be useful as a therapeutic intervention. While significant progress has been made in understanding protein prenylation in vitro, we have been interested in studying this process in living cells, including the question of where prenylated molecules localize. Here, we describe the synthesis and live cell analysis of a series of fluorescently labeled multifunctional peptides, based on the C-terminus of the naturally prenylated protein CDC42. A synthetic route was developed that features a key Acm to Scm protecting group conversion. This strategy was compatible with acid-sensitive isoprenoid moieties and allowed incorporation of an appropriate fluorophore as well as a cell-penetrating sequence (penetratin). These peptides are able to enter cells through different mechanisms, depending on the presence or absence of the penetratin vehicle and the nature of the prenyl group attached. Interestingly, prenylated peptides lacking penetratin are able to enter cells freely through an energy-independent process and localize in a perinuclear fashion. This effect extends to a prenylated peptide that includes a full "CAAX box" sequence (specifically, CVLL). Hence, these peptides open the door for studies of protein prenylation in living cells, including enzymatic processing and intracellular peptide trafficking. Moreover, the synthetic strategy developed here should be useful for the assembly of other types of peptides that contain acid-sensitive functionalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7293-7303
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number21
StatePublished - Jun 3 2009


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