The development of new methods for delivering proteins into cells is a central challenge for advancing both basic research and therapeutic applications. We previously reported that zinc-finger nuclease proteins are intrinsically cell-permeable due to the cell-penetrating activity of the Cys2-His2 zinc-finger domain. Here, we demonstrate that genetically fused zinc-finger motifs can transport proteins and enzymes into a wide range of primary and transformed mammalian cell types. We show that zinc-finger domains mediate protein uptake at efficiencies that exceed conventional protein transduction systems and do so without compromising enzyme activity. In addition, we demonstrate that zinc-finger proteins enter cells primarily through macropinocytosis and facilitate high levels of cytosolic delivery. These findings establish zinc-finger proteins as not only useful tools for targeted genome engineering but also effective reagents for protein delivery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine