Department of Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, U.S.A.
Cell-penetrating peptides (CPP) can translocate across the cell membrane and have been extensively studied for the delivery of proteins, nucleic acids, and therapeutics in mammalian cells. However, characterizations of CPP in plants have only recently been initiated. We showed that the intact virion and a recombinant capsid protein (CaP) from a plant-infecting nonenveloped icosahedral RNA virus, Brome mosaic virus (BMV), can penetrate the membranes of plant protoplasts but are trapped by the extracellular matrix. Furthermore, a 22-residue peptide derived from the N-terminal region of the CaP (CPNT) can enter barley protoplasts and cells of intact barley and Arabidopsis roots. An inhibitor of the macropinocytosis reduced CPNT entry, while treatment with NiCl2 changed the cellular localization of CPNT. CPNT increased uptake of the green flourescent protein (GFP) into the cell when covalently fused to GFP or when present in trans of GFP. The BMV CPNT overlaps with the sequence known to bind BMV RNA, and it can deliver BMV RNAs into cells, resulting in viral replication, as well as deliver double-stranded RNAs that can induce gene silencing.