The identification of permeation enhancers has gained interest in the development of drug delivery systems. A six-mer peptide, H-FCIGRL-OH (AT1002), is a tight junction modulator with promising permeation-enhancing activity. AT1002 enhances the transport of molecular weight markers or agents with low bioavailability with no cytotoxicity. However, AT1002 is not stable in neutral pH or after incubation under physiological conditions, which is necessary to fully uncover its permeation-enhancing effect. Thus, we increased the stability or mitigated the instability of AT1002 by modifying its terminal amino acids and evaluated its subsequent biological activity.
C-terminal-amidated (FCIGRL-NH 2, Pep1) and N-terminal-acetylated (Ac-FCIGRL, Pep2) peptides were analyzed by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. We further assessed cytotoxicity on cell monolayers, as well as the permeation-enhancing activity following nasal administration of the paracellular marker mannitol.
Pep1 was nontoxic to cell monolayers and showed a relatively low decrease in peak area compared to AT1002. In addition, administration of mannitol with Pep1 resulted in significant increases in the area under the plasma concentration–time curve and peak plasma concentration at 3.63-fold and 2.68-fold, respectively, compared to mannitol alone. In contrast, no increase in mannitol concentration was shown with mannitol/AT1002 or mannitol/Pep2 compared to the control. Thus, Pep1 increased the stability or possibly reduced the instability of AT1002, which resulted in an increased permeation-enhancing effect of AT1002.