Studies of CPPs (cell-penetrating peptides), sequences that are also commonly designated as protein transduction domains, now extend to a second decade of exciting and far-reaching discoveries. CPPs are proven vehicles for the intracellular delivery of macromolecules that include oligonucleotides, peptides and proteins, low-molecular-mass drugs, nanoparticles and liposomes. The biochemical properties of different classes of CPP, including various sequences derived from the HIV-1 Tat (transactivator of transcription) [e.g. Tat-(48–60), GRKKRRQRRRPPQ], and the homeodomain of the Drosophila homeoprotein Antennapaedia (residues 43–58, commonly named penetratin, RQIKIWFQNRRMKWKK), also provide novel insights into the fundamental mechanisms of translocation across biological membranes. Thus the efficacy of CPP-mediated cargo delivery continues to provide valuable tools for biomedical research and, as witnessed in 2007, candidate and emerging therapeutics. Thus it is anticipated that the further refinement of CPP technologies will provide drug-delivery vectors, cellular imaging tools, nanoparticulate devices and molecular therapeutics that will have a positive impact on the healthcare arena. The intention of this article is to provide both a succinct overview of current developments and applications of CPP technologies, and to illustrate key developments that the concerted efforts of the many researchers contributing to the Biochemical Society's Focused Meeting in Telford predict for the future. The accompanying papers in this issue of Biochemical Society Transactions provide additional details and appropriate references. Hopefully, the important and eagerly anticipated biomedical and clinical developments within the CPP field will occur sooner rather than later.

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