Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) are short sequences often rich in cationic residues with the remarkable ability to cross cell membranes. In the past 20 years, CPPs have gained wide interest and have found numerous applications in the delivery of bioactive cargoes to the cytosol and even the nucleus of living cells. The covalent or non-covalent addition of hydrocarbon moieties to cationic CPPs alters the hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity balance in their sequence. Such perturbation dramatically influences their interaction with the cell membrane, might induce self-assembling properties and modifies their intracellular trafficking. In particular, the introduction of lipophilic moieties changes the subcellular distribution of CPPs and might result in a dramatically increase of the internalization yield of the co-transported cargoes. Herein, we offer an overview of different aspects of the recent findings concerning the properties of CPPs covalently or non-covalently associated to hydrocarbons. We will focus on the impact of the hydrocarbon moieties on the delivery of various cargoes, either covalently or non-covalently bound to the modified CPPs. We will also provide some key elements to rationalize the influence of the hydrocarbons moieties on the cellular uptake. Furthermore, the recent in vitro and in vivo successful applications of acylated CPPs will be summarized to provide a broad view of the versatility of these modified CPPs as small-molecules and oligonucleotides vectors. Copyright © 2015 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The influence of hydrocarbon moieties on the internalization and delivery ability of cell-penetrating peptides is reviewed. The alterations of their physico-chemical characteristics are discussed in order to rationalize some of the emerging properties of cell-penetrating lipopeptides. General rules for the design of new lipopeptides are outlined as well as a guideline to choose the appropriate delivery vector.