Cell Penetrating Peptides (CPPs) are promising anticancer and antimicrobial drugs. We recently reported that a peptide derived from the human mitochondrial/ER membrane-anchored NEET protein, Nutrient Autophagy Factor 1 (NAF-1; NAF-144-67), selectively permeates and kills human metastatic epithelial breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231), but not control epithelial cells. As cancer cells alter their phenotype during growth and metastasis, we tested whether NAF-144–67 would also be efficient in killing other human epithelial breast cancer cells that may have a different phenotype. Here we report that NAF-144–67 is efficient in killing BT-549, Hs 578T, MDA-MB-436, and MDA-MB-453 breast cancer cells, but that MDA-MB-157 cells are resistant to it. Upon closer examination, we found that MDA-MB-157 cells display a high content of intracellular vesicles and cellular protrusions, compared to MDA-MB-231 cells, that could protect them from NAF-144–67. Inhibiting the formation of intracellular vesicles and dynamics of cellular protrusions of MDA-MB-157 cells, using a protein translation inhibitor (the antibiotic Cycloheximide), rendered these cells highly susceptible to NAF-144–67, suggesting that under certain conditions, the killing effect of CPPs could be augmented when they are applied in combination with an antibiotic or chemotherapy agent. These findings could prove important for the treatment of metastatic cancers with CPPs and/or treatment combinations that include CPPs.
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