Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are naturally occurring, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents that have recently been examined for their utility as therapeutic antibiotics. Unfortunately, they are expensive to produce and are often sensitive to protease digestion. To address this problem, we have examined the activity of a peptide mimetic whose design was based on the structure of magainin, exhibiting its amphiphilic structure. We demonstrate that this compound, meta-phenylene ethynylene (mPE), exhibits antimicrobial activity at nanomolar concentrations against a variety of bacterial and Candida species found in oral infections. Since Streptococcus mutans, an etiological agent of dental caries, colonizes the tooth surface and forms a biofilm, we quantified the activity of this compound against S. mutans growing under conditions that favor biofilm formation. Our results indicate that mPE can prevent the formation of a biofilm at nanomolar concentrations. Incubation with 5 nM mPE prevents further growth of the biofilm, and 100 nM mPE reduces viable bacteria in the biofilm by 3 logs. Structure-function analyses suggest that mPE inhibits the bioactivity of lipopolysaccharide and binds DNA at equimolar ratios, suggesting that it may act both as a membrane-active molecule, similar to magainin, and as an intracellular antibiotic, similar to other AMPs. We conclude that mPE and similar molecules display great potential for development as therapeutic antimicrobials.
Antimicrobial agents have eradicated many infectious diseases and significantly improved our living environment. However, abuse of antimicrobial agents has accelerated the emergence of multidrug-resistant microorganisms, and there is an urgent need for novel antibiotics. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have attracted attention as a novel class of antimicrobial agents because AMPs efficiently kill a wide range of species, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, via a novel mechanism of action. In addition, they are effective against pathogens that are resistant to almost all conventional antibiotics. AMPs have promising properties; they directly disrupt the functions of cellular membranes and nucleic acids, and the rate of appearance of AMP-resistant strains is very low. However, as pharmaceuticals, AMPs exhibit unfavorable properties, such as instability, hemolytic activity, high cost of production, salt sensitivity, and a broad spectrum of activity. Therefore, it is vital to improve these properties to develop novel AMP treatments. Here, we have reviewed the basic biochemical properties of AMPs and the recent strategies used to modulate these properties of AMPs to enhance their safety.
antibiotic; antimicrobial peptide; drug delivery; activity regulation
Staphylococci are the most abundant skin-colonizing bacteria and the most important causes of nosocomial infections and community-associated skin infections. Molecular determinants of staphylococcal skin colonization include surface polymers and proteins that promote adhesion and aggregation, and a wide variety of mechanisms to evade acquired and innate host defenses. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) likely play a central role in providing immunity to bacterial colonization on human epithelia. Recent research has shown that staphylococci have a broad arsenal to combat AMP activity, and can regulate expression of AMP-resistance mechanisms depending on the presence of AMPs. While direct in vivo evidence is still lacking, this suggests that the interplay between AMPs and AMP resistance mechanisms during evolution had a crucial role in rendering staphylococci efficient colonizers of human skin.
antimicrobial peptides; colonization; innate host defense; Staphylococcus aureus; Staphylococcus epidermidis
The increasing rate in antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains has become an imperative health issue. Thus, pharmaceutical industries have focussed their efforts to find new potent, non-toxic compounds to treat bacterial infections. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are promising candidates in the fight against antibiotic-resistant pathogens due to their low toxicity, broad range of activity and unspecific mechanism of action. In this context, bioinformatics' strategies can inspire the design of new peptide leads with enhanced activity. Here, we describe an artificial neural network approach, based on the AMP's physicochemical characteristics, that is able not only to identify active peptides but also to assess its antimicrobial potency. The physicochemical properties considered are directly derived from the peptide sequence and comprise a complete set of parameters that accurately describe AMPs. Most interesting, the results obtained dovetail with a model for the AMP's mechanism of action that takes into account new concepts such as peptide aggregation. Moreover, this classification system displays high accuracy and is well correlated with the experimentally reported data. All together, these results suggest that the physicochemical properties of AMPs determine its action. In addition, we conclude that sequence derived parameters are enough to characterize antimicrobial peptides.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are synthesized and secreted by immune and epithelial cells that are constantly exposed to environmental microbes. AMPs are essential for barrier defense, and deficiencies lead to increased susceptibility to infection. In addition to their ability to disrupt the integrity of bacterial, viral and fungal membranes, AMPs bind lipopolysaccharides, act as chemoattractants for immune cells and bind to cellular receptors and modulate the expression of cytokines and chemokines. These additional biological activities may explain the role of AMPs in inflammatory diseases and cancer. Modulating the endogenous expression of AMPs offers potential therapeutic treatments for infection and disease.
The present review examines the published data from both in vitro and in vivo studies reporting the effects of nutrients and by-products of microbial metabolism on the expression of antimicrobial peptide genes in order to highlight an emerging appreciation for the role of dietary compounds in modulating the innate immune response.
Vitamins A and D, dietary histone deacetylases and by-products of intestinal microbial metabolism (butyrate and secondary bile acids) have been found to regulate the expression of AMPs in humans. Vitamin D deficiency correlates with increased susceptibility to infection, and supplementation studies indicate an improvement in defense against infection. Animal and human clinical studies with butyrate indicate that increasing expression of AMPs in the colon protects against infection.
These findings suggest that diet and/or consumption of nutritional supplements may be used to improve and/or modulate immune function. In addition, by-products of gut microbe metabolism could be important for communicating with intestinal epithelial and immune cells, thus affecting the expression of AMPs. This interaction may help establish a mucosal barrier to prevent invasion of the intestinal epithelium by either mutualistic or pathogenic microorganisms.
Antimicrobial peptide; Innate immune; Vitamin; Dietary; Supplement; Infection
With the emergence of multidrug-resistant mycobacterial strains, better therapeutic strategies are required for the successful treatment of the infection. Although antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are becoming one of the popular antibacterial agents, their antimycobacterial potential is not fully evaluated. In this study, we synthesized biogenic-silver nanoparticles using bacterial, fungal, and plant biomasses and analyzed their antibacterial activities in combination with AMPs against mycobacteria. Mycobacterium smegmatis was found to be more susceptible to AgNPs compared to M. marinum. We found that NK-2 showed enhanced killing effect with NP-1 and NP-2 biogenic nanoparticles at a 0.5-ppm concentration, whereas LLKKK-18 showed antibacterial activity only with NP-2 at 0.5-ppm dose against M. smegmatis. In case of M. marinum NK-2 did not show any additive activity with NP-1 and NP-2 and LLKKK-18 alone completely inhibited the bacterial growth. Both NP-1 and NP-2 also showed increased killing of M. smegmatis in combination with the antituberculosis drug rifampin. The sizes and shapes of the AgNPs were determined by transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. AgNPs showed no cytotoxic or DNA damage effects on macrophages at the mycobactericidal dose, whereas treatment with higher doses of AgNPs caused toxicity and micronuclei formation in cytokinesis blocked cells. Macrophages actively endocytosed fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled AgNPs resulting in nitric oxide independent intracellular killing of M. smegmatis. Apoptosis and cell cycle studies showed that treatment with higher dose of AgNPs arrested macrophages at the G1-phase. In summary, our data suggest the combined effect of biogenic-AgNPs and antimicrobial peptides as a promising antimycobacterial template.
Whereas periodontal disease is ultimately of bacterial etiology, from multispecies biofilms of gram-negative anaerobic microorganisms, much of the deleterious effects are caused by the resultant epithelial inflammatory response. Hence, development of a treatment that combines anti-biofilm antibiotic activity with anti-inflammatory activity would be of great utility. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) such as defensins are naturally occurring peptides that exhibit broad-spectrum activity as well as a variety of immunomodulatory activities. Furthermore, bacteria do not readily develop resistance to these agents. However, clinical studies have suggested that they do not represent optimal candidates for exogenous therapeutic agents. Small-molecule mimetics of these AMPs exhibit similar activities to the parent peptides, in addition to having low toxicity, high stability and low cost. To determine whether AMP mimetics have the potential for treatment of periodontal disease, we examined the activity of one mimetic, mPE, against biofilm cultures of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and Porphyromonas gingivalis. Metabolic assays as well as culture and biomass measurement assays demonstrated that mPE exhibits potent activity against biofilm cultures of both species. Furthermore, as little as 2 µg ml−1 mPE was sufficient to inhibit interleukin-1β-induced secretion of interleukin-8 in both gingival epithelial cells and THP-1 cells. This anti-inflammatory activity is associated with a reduction in activation of nuclear factor-κB, suggesting that mPE can act both as an anti-biofilm agent in an anaerobic environment and as an anti-inflammatory agent in infected tissues.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; antibiotic; biofilm; cytokine
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) provide protection against a variety of pathogenic bacteria and are, therefore, an important part of the innate immune system. Over the last decade, there has been considerable interest in developing AMPs as intravenously administered antibiotics. However, despite extensive efforts in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, it has proven difficult to achieve this goal. While researchers have solved some relatively simple problems such as susceptibility to proteolysis, more severe problems have included the expense of the materials, toxicity, limited efficacy, and limited tissue distribution.
In this Account, we describe our efforts to design and synthesize “foldamers”-- short sequence-specific oligomers based on arylamide and β-amino acid backbones, which fold into well-defined secondary structures-- that could act as antimicrobial agents. We reasoned that small “foldamers” would be less expensive to produce than peptides, and might have better tissue distribution. It should be easier to fine-tune the structures and activities of these molecules to minimize toxicity.
Because the activities of many AMPs depends primarily on their overall physicochemical properties rather than the fine details of their precise amino acid sequences, we have designed and synthesized very small “coarse-grained” molecules, which are far simpler than naturally produced AMPs. The molecular design of these foldamers epitomizes the positively charged amphiphilic structures believed to be responsible for the activity of AMPs. The designed oligomers show greater activity than the parent peptides. They have also provided leads for novel small molecule therapeutics that show excellent potency in animal models for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. In addition, such molecules can serve as relatively simple experimental systems for investigations aimed at understanding the mechanism of action for this class of antimicrobial agents. The foldamers’ specificity for bacterial membranes relative to mammalian membranes appears to arise from differences in membrane composition and physical properties between these cell types.
Furthermore, because experimental coarse-graining provided such outstanding results, we developed computational coarse-grained models to enable molecular dynamic simulations of these molecules with phospholipid membranes. These simulations allow investigation of larger systems for longer times than conventional molecular dynamics simulations, allowing us to investigate how physiologically relevant surface concentrations of AMP mimics affect the bilayer structure and properties. Finally, we apply the principles discovered through this work to the design of inexpensive antimicrobial polymers and materials.
de novo design; antimicrobial peptide; foldamer; antibiotic; membrane-peptide interactions; antimicrobial polymers
Background: Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have the potential to act against multiple pathogenic targets.
Results: AMPs that maintain conformational flexibility are more potent against multiple pathogens and less hemolytic.
Conclusion: Antimicrobial action and hemolysis proceed via differing mechanisms.
Significance: The potency, selectivity, and ability of AMPs to reach intracellular pathogens can be modulated using general principles.
We used a combination of fluorescence, circular dichroism (CD), and NMR spectroscopies in conjunction with size exclusion chromatography to help rationalize the relative antibacterial, antiplasmodial, and cytotoxic activities of a series of proline-free and proline-containing model antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in terms of their structural properties. When compared with proline-free analogs, proline-containing peptides had greater activity against Gram-negative bacteria, two mammalian cancer cell lines, and intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum, which they were capable of killing without causing hemolysis. In contrast, incorporation of proline did not have a consistent effect on peptide activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In membrane-mimicking environments, structures with high α-helix content were adopted by both proline-free and proline-containing peptides. In solution, AMPs generally adopted disordered structures unless their sequences comprised more hydrophobic amino acids or until coordinating phosphate ions were added. Proline-containing peptides resisted ordering induced by either method. The roles of the angle subtended by positively charged amino acids and the positioning of the proline residues were also investigated. Careful positioning of proline residues in AMP sequences is required to enable the peptide to resist ordering and maintain optimal antibacterial activity, whereas varying the angle subtended by positively charged amino acids can attenuate hemolytic potential albeit with a modest reduction in potency. Maintaining conformational flexibility improves AMP potency and selectivity toward bacterial, plasmodial, and cancerous cells while enabling the targeting of intracellular pathogens.
Aggregation; Antimicrobial Peptides; Circular Dichroism (CD); Malaria; NMR; Peptide Conformation; Plasmodium; Tuberculosis; Proline Kinks
The rise of opportunistic fungal infections highlights the need for development of new antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial Peptides (AMPs) and Antifungal Peptides (AFPs) are among the agents with minimal resistance being developed against them, therefore they can be used as structural templates for design of new antimicrobial agents.
In the present study four antifungal peptidomimetic structures named C1 to C4 were designed based on plant defensin of Pisum sativum. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) for these structures were determined against Aspergillus niger N402, Candida albicans ATCC 10231, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae PTCC 5052.
C1 and C2 showed more potent antifungal activity against these fungal strains compared to C3 and C4. The structure C2 demonstrated a potent antifungal activity among them and could be used as a template for future study on antifungal peptidomemetics design. Sequences alignments led to identifying antifungal decapeptide (KTCENLADTY) named KTC-Y, which its MIC was determined on fungal protoplast showing 25 (µg/ml) against Aspergillus fumigatus Af293.
The present approach to reach the antifungal molecules seems to be a powerful approach in design of bioactive agents based on AMP mimetic identification.
Antifungal agents; Defensins; Drug design; Peptidomimetics; Protoplasts
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) play important roles in the innate defense mechanism. The broad spectrum of activity of AMPs requires an efficient permeabilization of the bacterial outer and inner membranes. The outer leaflet of the outer membrane of Gram negative bacteria is made of a specialized lipid called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The LPS layer is an efficient permeability barrier against anti-bacterial agents including AMPs. As a mode of protection, LPS can induce self associations of AMPs rendering them inactive. Temporins are a group of short-sized AMPs isolated from frog skin, and many of them are inactive against Gram negative bacteria as a result of their self-association in the LPS-outer membrane.
Using NMR spectroscopy, we have determined atomic resolution structure and characterized localization of temporin-1Ta or TA (FLPLIGRVLSGIL-amide) in LPS micelles. In LPS micelles, TA adopts helical conformation for residues L4-I12, while residues F1-L3 are found to be in extended conformations. The aromatic sidechain of residue F1 is involved in extensive packing interactions with the sidechains of residues P3, L4 and I5. Interestingly, a number of long-range NOE contacts have been detected between the N-terminal residues F1, P3 with the C-terminal residues S10, I12, L13 of TA in LPS micelles. Saturation transfer difference (STD) NMR studies demonstrate close proximity of residues including F1, L2, P3, R7, S10 and L13 with the LPS micelles. Notably, the LPS bound structure of TA shows differences with the structures of TA determined in DPC and SDS detergent micelles.
We propose that TA, in LPS lipids, forms helical oligomeric structures employing N- and C-termini residues. Such oligomeric structures may not be translocated across the outer membrane; resulting in the inactivation of the AMP. Importantly, the results of our studies will be useful for the development of antimicrobial agents with a broader spectrum of activity.
A better understanding of the antimicrobial peptide (AMP) resistance mechanisms of bacteria will facilitate the design of effective and potent AMPs. Therefore, to understand resistance mechanisms and for in vitro assessment, variants of Enterococcus faecalis that are resistant to different doses of the fungal AMP alamethicin (Almr) were selected and characterized. The resistance developed was dose dependent, as both doses of alamethicin and degrees of resistance were colinear. The formation of bacterial cell aggregates observed in resistant cells may be the prime mechanism of resistance because overall, a smaller cell surface in aggregated cells is exposed to AMPs. Increased rigidity of the membranes of Almr variants, because of their altered fatty acids, was correlated with limited membrane penetration by alamethicin. Thus, resistance developed against alamethicin was an adaptation of the bacterial cells through changes in their morphological features and physiological activity and the composition of membrane phospholipids. The Almr variants showed cross-resistance to pediocin, which indicated that resistance developed against both AMPs may share a mechanism, i.e., an alteration in the cell membrane. High percentages of colorimetric response by both AMPs against polydiacetylene/lipid biomimetic membranes of Almr variants confirmed that altered phospholipid and fatty acid compositions were responsible for acquisition of resistance. So far, this is the only report of quantification of resistance and cross-resistance using an in vitro colorimetric approach. Our results imply that a single AMP or AMP analog may be effective against bacterial strains having a common mechanism of resistance. Therefore, an understanding of resistance would contribute to the development of a single efficient, potent AMP against resistant strains that share a mechanism of resistance.
Emergence of drug resistant strains to currently available antibiotics has resulted in the quest for novel antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are receiving attention as alternatives to antibiotics. In this study, we used phage-display random peptide library to identify peptides binding to the cell surface of E. coli. The peptide with sequence RLLFRKIRRLKR (EC5) bound to the cell surface of E. coli and exhibited certain features common to AMPs and was rich in Arginine and Lysine residues. Antimicrobial activity of the peptide was tested in vitro by growth inhibition assays and the bacterial membrane permeabilization assay. The peptide was highly active against Gram-negative organisms and showed significant bactericidal activity against E. coli and P. aeruginosa resulting in a reduction of 5 log10 CFU/ml. In homologous plasma and platelets, incubation of EC5 with the bacteria resulted in significant reduction of E. coli and P. aeruginosa, compared to the peptide-free controls. The peptide was non-hemolytic and non-cytotoxic when tested on eukaryotic cells in culture. EC5 was able to permeabilize the outer membrane of E. coli and P. aeruginosa causing rapid depolarization of cytoplasmic membrane resulting in killing of the cells at 5 minutes of exposure. The secondary structure of the peptide showed a α-helical conformation in the presence of aqueous environment. The bacterial lipid interaction with the peptide was also investigated using Molecular Dynamic Simulations. Thus this study demonstrates that peptides identified to bind to bacterial cell surface through phage-display screening may additionally aid in identifying and developing novel antimicrobial peptides.
A bacterial membrane protein, BacA, protects Sinorhizobium meliloti against the antimicrobial activity of host peptides, enabling the peptides to induce bacterial persistence rather than bacterial death.
Sinorhizobium meliloti differentiates into persisting, nitrogen-fixing bacteroids within root nodules of the legume Medicago truncatula. Nodule-specific cysteine-rich antimicrobial peptides (NCR AMPs) and the bacterial BacA protein are essential for bacteroid development. However, the bacterial factors central to the NCR AMP response and the in planta role of BacA are unknown. We investigated the hypothesis that BacA is critical for the bacterial response towards NCR AMPs. We found that BacA was not essential for NCR AMPs to induce features of S. meliloti bacteroids in vitro. Instead, BacA was critical to reduce the amount of NCR AMP-induced membrane permeabilization and bacterial killing in vitro. Within M. truncatula, both wild-type and BacA-deficient mutant bacteria were challenged with NCR AMPs, but this resulted in persistence of the wild-type bacteria and rapid cell death of the mutant bacteria. In contrast, BacA was dispensable for bacterial survival in an M. truncatula dnf1 mutant defective in NCR AMP transport to the bacterial compartment. Therefore, BacA is critical for the legume symbiosis by protecting S. meliloti against the bactericidal effects of NCR AMPs. Host AMPs are ubiquitous in nature and BacA proteins are essential for other chronic host infections by symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria. Hence, our findings suggest that BacA-mediated protection of bacteria against host AMPs is a critical stage in the establishment of different prolonged host infections.
Certain bacterial species have the unique capacity to enter into eukaryotic host cells and establish prolonged infections, which can be beneficial (e.g. bacterial-legume symbiosis) or detrimental (e.g. chronic disease) for the host. However, the mechanisms by which bacteria persist in host cells are poorly understood. Legume peptides and the bacterial BacA membrane protein play essential roles in enabling bacteria to establish prolonged legume infections. However, the biological function of BacA in persistent legume infections has eluded scientists for nearly two decades. In this article, we investigated a potential relationship between legume peptides and BacA in the establishment of prolonged bacterial-legume infections. We found that BacA was critical to protect bacteria against the antimicrobial action of legume peptides, thereby allowing the peptides to induce bacterial persistence within the legume rather than rapid bacterial death. Mammalian hosts also produce peptides in response to invading microorganisms and BacA proteins are critical for medically important bacterial pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis to form prolonged mammalian infections. Therefore, our results suggest that BacA-mediated protection against host peptides might be a conserved mechanism used by both symbiotic and pathogenic bacterial species to establish long-term host infections.
The antimicrobial effect obtained upon combining the prokaryotic antimicrobial peptides (AMPs; more commonly referred to as bacteriocins) pediocin PA-1, sakacin P, and curvacin A (all produced by lactic acid bacteria [LAB]) with the eukaryotic AMP pleurocidin (from fish) has been investigated. The three LAB AMPs alone were active against gram-positive Listeria ivanovii bacteria at nanomolar concentrations, whereas they were inactive against gram-negative Escherichia coli bacteria. Pleurocidin alone was active against both of these types of bacteria at micromolar concentrations. Little if any synergy between the LAB AMPs and pleurocidin against the gram-positive L. ivanovii strain was obtained. In contrast, the LAB AMPs and pleurocidin acted highly synergistically against the gram-negative E. coli strain. Nanomolar concentrations of LAB AMPs increased the growth inhibitory potency of pleurocidin by about fourfold. When micromolar concentrations of LAB AMPs were combined with 2 μg of pleurocidin/ml, 100% growth inhibition was attained, whereas pleurocidin alone at a concentration of 2 μg/ml gave no growth inhibition. Most noteworthy, when high concentrations (128 μg/ml) of pleurocidin in the absence of LAB AMPs were used over a long period of incubation (1 week), some growth of E. coli was observed, whereas 16 μg of pleurocidin/ml completely abolished growth in the presence of 64 to 128 ng of LAB AMPs/ml over the same period of time. The results clearly demonstrate that combining eukaryotic and prokaryotic AMPs can greatly increase the specific activity and broaden the target-cell range of these peptides.
The frequent emergence of drug-resistant bacteria has created an urgent demand for new antimicrobial agents. Traditional methods of novel antibiotic development are almost obsolete. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are now regarded as a potential solution to revive the traditional methods of antibiotic development, although, until now, many AMPs have failed in clinical trials. A comprehensive database of AMPs with information about their antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity will help promote the process of finding novel AMPs with improved antimicrobial activity and reduced cytotoxicity and eventually accelerate the speed of translating the discovery of new AMPs into clinical or preclinical trials. LAMP, a database linking AMPs, serves as a tool to aid the discovery and design of AMPs as new antimicrobial agents. The current version of LAMP has 5,547 entries, comprising 3,904 natural AMPs and 1,643 synthetic peptides. The database can be queried using either simply keywords or combinatorial conditions searches. Equipped with the detailed antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity data, the cross-linking and top similar AMPs functions implemented in LAMP will help enhance our current understanding of AMPs and this may speed up the development of new AMPs for medical applications. LAMP is freely available at: http://biotechlab.fudan.edu.cn/database/lamp.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are activated in response to septic injury and have important roles in vertebrate and invertebrate immune systems. AMPs act directly against pathogens and have both wound healing and antitumor activities. Although coleopterans comprise the largest and most diverse order of eukaryotes and occupy an earlier branch than Drosophila in the holometabolous lineage of insects, their immune system has not been studied extensively. Initial research reports, however, indicate that coleopterans possess unique immune response mechanisms, and studies of these novel mechanisms may help to further elucidate innate immunity. Recently, the complete genome sequence of Tribolium was published, boosting research on coleopteran immunity and leading to the identification of Tribolium AMPs that are shared by Drosophila and mammals, as well as other AMPs that are unique. AMPs have potential applicability in the development of vaccines. Here, we review coleopteran AMPs, their potential impact on clinical medicine, and the molecular basis of immune defense.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMP) are important effectors of the innate immune system. Although there is increasing evidence that AMPs influence bacteria in a multitude of ways, bacterial wall rupture plays the pivotal role in the bactericidal action of AMPs. Structurally, AMPs share many similarities with endogenous heparin-binding peptides with respect to secondary structure, cationicity, and amphipathicity.
In this study, we show that RQA21 (RQAREHSERKKRRRESECKAA), a cationic and hydrophilic heparin-binding peptide corresponding to the C-terminal region of extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD), exerts antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Candida albicans. The peptide was also found to induce membrane leakage of negatively charged liposomes. However, its antibacterial effects were abrogated in physiological salt conditions as well as in plasma.
The results provide further evidence that heparin-binding peptide regions are multifunctional, but also illustrate that cationicity alone is not sufficient for AMP function at physiological conditions. However, our observation, apart from providing a link between heparin-binding peptides and AMPs, raises the hypothesis that proteolytically generated C-terminal SOD-derived peptides could interact with, and possibly counteract bacteria. Further studies are therefore merited to study a possible role of SOD in host defence.
The growing problem of bacterial resistance to conventional antibiotic compounds and the need for new antibiotics has stimulated interest in the development of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as human therapeutics. Development of topically applied agents, such as pexiganan (also known as MSI-78, an analog of the naturally occurring magainin2, extracted from the skin of the African frog Xenopus laevis) has been the focus of pharmaceutical development largely because of the relative safety of topical therapy and the uncertainty surrounding the long-term toxicology of any new class of drug administered systemically. The main hurdle that has hindered the development of antimicrobial peptides is that many of the naturally occurring peptides (such as magainin), although active in vitro, are effective in animal models of infection only at very high doses, often close to the toxic doses of the peptide, reflecting an unacceptable margin of safety. Though MSI-78 did not pass the FDA approval, it is still the best-studied AMP to date for therapeutic purposes. Biophysical studies have shown that this peptide is unstructured in solution, forms an antiparallel dimer of amphipathic helices upon binding to the membrane, and disrupts membrane via toroidal-type pore formation. This article covers functional, biophysical, biochemical and structural studies on pexiganan.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are multi-functional peptides whose fundamental biological role in vivo has been proposed to be the elimination of pathogenic microorganisms, including Gram-positive and -negative bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Genes encoding these peptides are expressed in a variety of cells in the host, including circulating phagocytic cells and mucosal epithelial cells, demonstrating a wide range of utility in the innate immune system. Expression of these genes is tightly regulated; they are induced by pathogens and cytokines as part of the host defense response, and they can be suppressed by bacterial virulence factors and environmental factors which can lead to increased susceptibility to infection. New research has also cast light on alternative functionalities, including immunomodulatory activities, which are related to their unique structural characteristics. These peptides represent not only an important component of innate host defense against microbial colonization and a link between innate and adaptive immunity, but also form a foundation for the development of new therapeutic agents.
Defensin; magainin; innate immunity; membrane disruption
In spite of great advances in cancer therapy, there is considerable current interest in developing anticancer agents with a new mode of action because of the development of resistance by cancer cells towards current anticancer drugs. A growing number of studies have shown that some of the cationic antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are toxic to bacteria but not to normal mammalian cells, exhibit a broad spectrum of cytotoxic activity against cancer cells. Such studies have considerably enhanced the significance of AMPs, both synthetic and from natural sources, which have been of importance both for an increased understanding of the immune system and for their potential as clinical antibiotics. The electrostatic attraction between the negatively charged components of bacterial and cancer cells and the positively charged AMPs is believed to play a major role in the strong binding and selective disruption of bacterial and cancer cell membranes, respectively. However, it is unclear why some host defense peptides are able to kill cancer cells when others do not. In addition, it is not clear whether the molecular mechanism(s) underlying the antibacterial and anticancer activities of AMPs are the same or different. In this article, we review various studies on different AMPs that exhibit cytotoxic activity against cancer cells. The suitability of cancer cell-targeting AMPs as cancer therapeutics is also discussed.
Antimicrobial cationic peptides (AMPs) are ubiquitous small proteins used by living cells to defend against a wide spectrum of pathogens. Their amphipathic property helps their interaction with negatively charged cellular membrane of the pathogen causing cell lysis and death. AMPs also modulate signaling pathway(s) and cellular processes in animal models; however, little is known of cellular processes other than the pathogen-lysis phenomenon modulated by AMPs in plants. An engineered heterologous AMP, msrA3, expressed in potato was previously shown to cause resistance of the transgenic plants against selected fungal and bacterial pathogens. These lines together with the wild type were studied for growth habits, and for inducible defense responses during challenge with biotic (necrotroph Fusarium solani) and abiotic stressors (dark-induced senescence, wounding and temperature stress). msrA3-expression not only conferred protection against F. solani but also delayed development of floral buds and prolonged vegetative phase. Analysis of select gene transcript profiles showed that the transgenic potato plants were suppressed in the hypersensitive (HR) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) responses to both biotic and abiotic stressors. Also, the transgenic leaves accumulated lesser amounts of the defense hormone jasmonic acid upon wounding with only a slight change in salicylic acid as compared to the wild type. Thus, normal host defense responses to the pathogen and abiotic stressors were mitigated by msrA3 expression suggesting MSRA3 regulates a common step(s) of these response pathways. The stemming of the pathogen growth and mitigating stress response pathways likely contributes to resource reallocation for higher tuber yield.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) contribute to host innate immune defense and are a critical component to control bacterial infection. Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) is a commensal inhabitant of the human nasopharyngeal mucosa, yet is commonly associated with opportunistic infections of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. An important aspect of NTHI virulence is the ability to avert bactericidal effects of host-derived antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). The Sap (sensitivity to antimicrobial peptides) ABC transporter equips NTHI to resist AMPs, although the mechanism of this resistance has remained undefined. We previously determined that the periplasmic binding protein SapA bound AMPs and was required for NTHI virulence in vivo. We now demonstrate, by antibody-mediated neutralization of AMP in vivo, that SapA functions to directly counter AMP lethality during NTHI infection. We hypothesized that SapA would deliver AMPs to the Sap inner membrane complex for transport into the bacterial cytoplasm. We observed that AMPs localize to the bacterial cytoplasm of the parental NTHI strain and were susceptible to cytoplasmic peptidase activity. In striking contrast, AMPs accumulated in the periplasm of bacteria lacking a functional Sap permease complex. These data support a mechanism of Sap mediated import of AMPs, a novel strategy to reduce periplasmic and inner membrane accumulation of these host defense peptides.
The opportunistic pathogen Haemophilus influenzae is a normal inhabitant of the human nasopharynx, and is commonly implicated in respiratory tract infections, particularly of the middle ear (otitis media), sinuses, and lung (pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis). We have identified a multifunctional bacterial uptake system that is required for critical mechanisms of bacterial survival in the host. This Sap transporter system recognizes and transports host immune defense molecules and is involved in uptake of an iron-containing nutrient (heme) that is host-limited, yet required for bacterial growth and survival. We propose that bacteria utilize this, and likely other similar transport systems, for numerous functions that are important for bacterial survival in the host, including host immune evasion and metabolism. Our findings significantly advance our understanding of how single bacterial protein systems co-operate and coordinate multiple functions to equip bacteria to survive and cause disease in the hostile host environment. Our long-range goal is to block this uptake system thereby starving the bacterium of essential nutrients and also promoting clearance by the host immune response. Removal of this important bacterial survival mechanism will thwart the ability for Haemophilus to survive as a pathogen and thus decrease the incidence of disease development.
The increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria has led to renewed interest in development of alternative antimicrobial compounds such as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), either naturally-occurring or synthetically-derived. Knowledge of the mode of action (MOA) of synthetic compounds mimicking the function of AMPs is highly valuable both when developing new types of antimicrobials and when predicting resistance development. Despite many functional studies of AMPs, only a few of the synthetic peptides have been studied in detail.
We investigated the MOA of the lysine-peptoid hybrid, LP5, which previously has been shown to display antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus. At concentrations of LP5 above the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC), the peptoid caused ATP leakage from bacterial cells. However, at concentrations close to the MIC, LP5 inhibited the growth of S. aureus without ATP leakage. Instead, LP5 bound DNA and inhibited macromolecular synthesis. The binding to DNA also led to inhibition of DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV and caused induction of the SOS response.
Our data demonstrate that LP5 may have a dual mode of action against S. aureus. At MIC concentrations, LP5 binds DNA and inhibits macromolecular synthesis and growth, whereas at concentrations above the MIC, LP5 targets the bacterial membrane leading to disruption of the membrane. These results add new information about the MOA of a new synthetic AMP and aid in the future design of synthetic peptides with increased therapeutic potential.
We recently described ten peptides selected from a 16,384-member combinatorial library based on their ability to permeabilize synthetic lipid vesicles in vitro (Rathinakumar R and Wimley WC, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 9849-9858). These peptides did not share a common sequence motif, length or net charge; nonetheless they shared a mechanism of action that is similar to the natural membrane permeabilizing antimicrobial peptides (AMP). To characterize the selected peptides and to compare the activity of AMPs in vivo and in vitro we report on the biological activity of the same selected peptides in bacteria, fungi, and mammalian cells. Each of the peptides has sterilizing activity against all classes of microbes tested, at 2-8 μM peptide, with only slight hemolytic or cytotoxicity against mammalian cells. Similar to many natural AMPs, bacteria are killed within a few minutes of peptide addition and the lethal step in vivo is membrane permeabilization. Single D-amino acid substitutions eliminated or diminished the secondary structure of the peptides and yet they retained activity against some microbes. Thus, secondary structure and biological activity are not coupled, consistent with the hypothesis that AMPs do not form pores of well defined structure in membranes, but rather destabilize membranes by partitioning into membrane interfaces and disturbing the organization of the lipids, a property that we have called “interfacial activity”. The observation that broad-spectrum activity, but not all antimicrobial activity, is lost by small changes to the peptides suggests that the in vitro screen is specifically selecting for the rare peptides that have broad-spectrum activity. We put forth the hypothesis that methods focusing on screening peptide libraries in vitro for members with the appropriate interfacial activity can enable the design, selection and discovery of novel, potent and broad-spectrum membrane-active antibiotics.