Research ArticleDRUG DELIVERY

Cytosolic delivery of proteins by cholesterol tagging

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Science Advances  19 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 25, eabb0310
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb0310


Protein-based imaging agents and therapeutics are superior in structural and functional diversity compared to small molecules and are much easier to design or screen. Antibodies or antibody fragments can be easily raised against virtually any target. Despite these fundamental advantages, the power and impact of protein-based agents are substantially undermined, only acting on a limited number of extracellular targets because macrobiomolecules cannot spontaneously cross the cell membrane. Conventional protein delivery techniques fail to address this fundamental problem in that protein cargos are predominantly delivered inside cells via endocytosis, a remarkably effective cell defense mechanism developed by Mother Nature to prevent intact biomolecules from entering the cytoplasm. Here, we report a unique concept, noncovalent cholesterol tagging, enabling virtually any compact proteins to permeate through the cell membrane, completely bypassing endocytosis. This simple plug-and-play platform greatly expands the biological target space and has the potential to transform basic biology studies and drug discovery.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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