Department of Genetics and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 5, 128 44 Prague 2, Czech Republic; Institute of Pathological Physiology, 1(st) Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, U Nemocnice 5, 128 53 Prague 2, Czech Republic. Electronic address: [Email]
Viral nanoparticles represent potential natural versatile platforms for targeted gene and drug delivery. Improving the efficiency of gene transfer mediated by viral vectors could not only enhance their therapeutic potential, but also contribute to understanding the limitations in interactions of nanoparticles with cells and the development of new therapeutic approaches. In this study, four cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs), cationic octaarginine (R8), histidine-rich peptides (LAH4 and KH27K) and fusogenic peptide (FUSO), are investigated for their effect on infection by mouse polyomavirus (MPyV) or on transduction of reporter genes delivered by MPyV or related viral vectors. Peptides noncovalently associated with viral particles enhance gene transfer (with the exception of FUSO). Removal of cellular heparan sulfates by the heparinase does not significantly change the enhancing potential of CPPs. Instead, CPPs influences the physical state of viral particles: R8 slightly destabilizes the intact virus, KH27K induces its aggregation and LAH4 promotes disassembly and aggregation of the particles that massively and rapidly associate with cells. The findings indicate that peptides acting as transduction-enhancing agents of polyomavirus-based nanoparticles modulate their physical state, which can be an important prerequisite for sensitization of cells and determination of the further fate of viral particles inside cells.