Investigation of the relevance between cell cycle status and the bioactivity of exogenously delivered biomacromolecules is hindered by their time-consuming cell internalization and the cytotoxicity of transfection methods. In this study, we addressed these problems by utilizing the photochemical internalization (PCI) method using a peptide/protein-photosensitizer conjugate, which enables immediate cytoplasmic internalization of the bioactive peptides/proteins in a light-dependent manner with low cytotoxicity. To identify the cell-cycle dependent apoptosis, a TatBim peptide-photosensitizer conjugate (TatBim-PS) with apoptotic activity was photo-dependently internalized into HeLa cells expressing a fluorescent ubiquitination-based cell cycle indicator (Fucci2). Upon irradiation, cytoplasmic TatBim-PS internalization exceeded 95% for all cells classified in the G1, S, and G2/M cell cycle phases with no significant differences between groups. TatBim-PS-mediated apoptosis was more efficiently triggered by photoirradiation in the G1/S transition than in the G1 and S/G2/M phases, suggesting high sensitivity of the former phase to Bim-induced apoptosis. Thus, the cell cycle dependence of Bim peptide-induced apoptosis was successfully investigated using Fucci2 indicator and the PCI method. Since PCI-mediated cytoplasmic internalization of peptides is rapid and does not span multiple cell cycle phases, the Fucci-PCI method constitutes a promising tool for analyzing the cell cycle dependence of peptides/protein functions.
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