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Cell Internalization Of The Third Helix Of The Antennapedia Homeodomain Is Receptor-independent*

D. Derossi, S. Calvet, A. Trembleau, A. Brunissen, G. Chassaing, A. Prochiantz
Published 1996 · Medicine, Biology

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We have recently reported that a 16-amino acid long polypeptide corresponding to the third helix of the DNA binding domain (homeodomain) of Antennapedia, a Drosophila transcription factor, is internalized by cells in culture (Derossi, D., Joliot, A. H., Chassaing, G., and Prochiantz, A. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 10444-10450). The capture of the homeodomain and of its third helix at temperatures below 10°C raised the problem of the mechanism of internalization. The present demonstration, that a reverse helix and a helix composed of D-enantiomers still translocate across biological membranes at 4 and 37°C strongly suggests that the third helix of the homeodomain is internalized by a receptor-independent mechanism. The finding that introducing 1 or 3 prolines in the structure does not hamper internalization also demonstrates that the α-helical structure is not necessary. The data presented are compatible with a translocation process based on the establishment of direct interactions with the membrane phospholipids. The third helix of the homeodomain has been used successfully to address biologically active substances to the cytoplasm and nucleus of cells in culture (Théodore, L., Derossi, D., Chassaing, G., Llirbat, B., Kubes, M., Jordan, P., Chneiweiss, H., Godement, P., and Prochiantz, A. (1995) J. Neurosci. 15, 7158-7167). Therefore, in addition to their physiological implications (Prochiantz, A., and Théodore, L. (1995) BioEssays 17, 39-45), the present results open the way to the molecular design of cellular vectors.
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