Novel β-sheet-forming peptide 33-mers, βpep peptides, have been designed by using a combination approach employing basic folding principles and incorporating short sequences from the β-sheet domains of anti-angiogenic proteins. One of these designed peptides (βpep-25), named anginex, was observed to be potently anti-angiogenic. Anginex specifically inhibits vascular endothelial cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in these cells, as shown by flow-cytometric detection of sub-diploid cells, TUNEL (terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-nick-end labelling) analysis and cell morphology. Anginex also inhibits endothelial cell adhesion to and migration on different extracellular matrix components. Inhibition of angiogenesis in vitro is demonstrated in the sprout-formation assay and in vivo in the chick embryo chorio-allantoic membrane angiogenesis assay. Comparison of active and inactive βpep sequences allows structure–function relationships to be deduced. Five hydrophobic residues and two lysines appear to be crucial to activity. This is the first report of a designed peptide having a well-defined biological function as a novel cytokine, which may be an effective anti-angiogenic agent for therapeutic use against various pathological disorders, such as neoplasia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic retinopathy and restenosis.

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