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Moran-Torres, Rafael; Castillo Gonzalez, David A; Duran-Pasten, Maria Luisa; Aguilar-Maldonado, Beatriz; Castro-Obregon, Susana; Del Rio, Gabriel (2021)


Pharmaceutics 13(8):
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Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are molecules capable of passing through biological membranes. This capacity has been used to deliver impermeable molecules into cells, such as drugs and DNA probes, among others. However, the internalization of these peptides lacks specificity: CPPs internalize indistinctly on different cell types. Two major approaches have been described to address this problem: (i) targeting, in which a receptor-recognizing sequence is added to a CPP, and (ii) activation, where a non-active form of the CPP is activated once it interacts with cell target components. These strategies result in multifunctional peptides (i.e., penetrate and target recognition) that increase the CPP's length, the cost of synthesis and the likelihood to be degraded or become antigenic. In this work we describe the use of machine-learning methods to design short selective CPP; the reduction in size is accomplished by embedding two or more activities within a single CPP domain, hence we referred to these as moonlighting CPPs. We provide experimental evidence that these designed moonlighting peptides penetrate selectively in targeted cells and discuss areas of opportunity to improve in the design of these peptides.