The cell membrane and the nuclear membrane are two major barriers hindering the free movement of various macromolecules through animal cells. Nevertheless, some proteins can actively bypass these barriers by dint of intrinsic peptidic signals, so incorporation of these signals might improve the efficacy of artificial gene delivery vehicles. We examined the role of the nuclear localization signal (NLS) in gene transfer, using recombinant lambda phage as a model of the polymer/DNA complexes. We prepared a lambda phage displaying a 32-mer NLS of SV40 T antigen on its surface (NLS phage), and found that this NLS phage, delivered into the cytoplasm by appropriate devices, has higher affinity for the nucleus and induces the expression of encapsulated marker genes more efficiently than does the wild-type phage. This suggests that the 32-mer NLS peptide will become a practical tool for artificial gene delivery vehicles with enhanced nuclear targeting activity.
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