Tuning the activity of mitochondria-penetrating peptides for delivery or disruption

Kristin L. Horton, Mark P. Pereira, Kelly M. Stewart, Sonali B. Fonseca, Shana O. Kelley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Mitochondrially targeted agents have the capacity to be both vehicles for the delivery of bioactive agents and mitochondrial disrupters and show promise for the treatment of various diseases. Engineering these agents to specifically accumulate or disrupt the mitochondrion is challenging, as there is a fine line between characteristics of the molecules that accomplish each task. Here, we assess the physicochemical properties governing mitochondrial matrix accumulation or membrane disruption caused by mitochondria-penetrating peptides. Increases in peptide length and hydrophobicity were uncovered as the dominant factors in deriving membrane disruptive activity. Shorter, less hydrophobic peptides did not disrupt the mitochondrial membrane, but rather accumulated in the mitochondrial matrix without interfering with cellular activity. These shorter peptides, however, can trigger cytochrome c release through activation of the permeability transition pore complex (PTPC), but only at very high concentrations. This study illustrates that the activity of a mitochondria-localizing agent can be controlled through alterations in peptide hydrophobicity and dosing concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-485
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 13 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Drug delivery
  • Mitochondria
  • Peptides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry


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