Mechanistic studies of a cell-permeant peptide designed to enhance myosin light chain phosphorylation in polarized intestinal epithelia

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Tight junction (TJ) structures restrict the movement of solutes between adjacent epithelial cells to maintain homeostatic conditions. A peptide, termed PIP 640, with the capacity to regulate the transient opening of intestinal TJ structures through an endogenous mechanism involving the induction of myosin light chain (MLC) phosphorylation at serine 19 (MLC-pS19) has provided a promising new method to enhance the in vivo oral bioavailability of peptide therapeutics. PIP 640 is a decapeptide composed of all D-amino acids (rrdykvevrr-NH2) that contains a central sequence designed to emulates a specific domain of C-kinase potentiated protein phosphatase-1 inhibitor-17 kDa (CPI-17) surrounded by positively-charged amino acids that provide a cell penetrating peptide (CPP)-like character. Here, we examine compositional requirements of PIP 640 with regard to its actions on MLC phosphorylation, its intracellular localization to TJ structures, and its interactions with MLC phosphatase (MLCP) elements that correlate with enhanced solute uptake. These studies showed that a glutamic acid and tyrosine within this peptide are critical for PIP 640 to retain its ability to increase MLC-pS19 levels and enhance the permeability of macromolecular solutes of the size range of therapeutic peptides without detectable cytotoxicity. On the other hand, exchange of the aspartic acid for alanine and then arginine resulted in an increasingly greater bias toward protein phosphatase-1 (PP1) relative to MLCP inhibition, an outcome that resulted in increased paracellular permeability for solutes in the size range of therapeutic peptides, but with a significant increase in cytotoxicity. Together, these data further our understanding of the composition requirements of PIP 640 with respect to the desired goal of transiently altering the intestinal epithelial cell paracellular barrier properties through an endogenous mechanism, providing a novel approach to enhance the oral bioavailability of poorly absorbed therapeutic agents of < ~ 5 kDa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-219
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Early online date31 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2018


  • Cell penetrating peptide
  • Myosin light chain phosphatase
  • Oral insulin
  • Paracellular transport
  • PIP 640
  • Protein-protein interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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