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1.  Rapid Probing of Biological Surfaces with a Sparse-Matrix Peptide Library 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23551.
Finding unique peptides to target specific biological surfaces is crucial to basic research and technology development, though methods based on biological arrays or large libraries limit the speed and ease with which these necessary compounds can be found. We reasoned that because biological surfaces, such as cell surfaces, mineralized tissues, and various extracellular matrices have unique molecular compositions, they present unique physicochemical signatures to the surrounding medium which could be probed by peptides with appropriately corresponding physicochemical properties. To test this hypothesis, a naïve pilot library of 36 peptides, varying in their hydrophobicity and charge, was arranged in a two-dimensional matrix and screened against various biological surfaces. While the number of peptides in the matrix library was very small, we obtained “hits” against all biological surfaces probed. Sequence refinement of the “hits” led to peptides with markedly higher specificity and binding activity against screened biological surfaces. Genetic studies revealed that peptide binding to bacteria was mediated, at least in some cases, by specific cell-surface molecules, while examination of human tooth sections showed that this method can be used to derive peptides with highly specific binding to human tissue.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023551
PMCID: PMC3156232  PMID: 21858167
2.  Development and evaluation of a safe and effective sugar-free herbal lollipop that kills cavity-causing bacteria 
Dental caries (tooth decay) is caused by a specific group of cariogenic bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, which convert dietary sugars into acids that dissolve the mineral in tooth structure. Killing cariogenic bacteria is an effective way to control or prevent tooth decay. In a previous study, we discovered a novel compound (Glycyrrhizol A), from the extraction of licorice roots, with strong antimicrobial activity against cariogenic bacteria. In the current study, we developed a method to produce these specific herbal extracts in large quantities, and then used these extracts to develop a sugar-free lollipop that effectively kills cariogenic bacteria like Streptococcus mutans. Further studies showed that these sugar-free lollipops are safe and their antimicrobial activity is stable. Two pilot human studies indicate that a brief application of these lollipops (twice a day for ten days) led to a marked reduction of cariogenic bacteria in oral cavity among most human subjects tested. This herbal lollipop could be a novel tool to promote oral health through functional foods.
doi:10.4248/IJOS11005
PMCID: PMC3469870  PMID: 21449211
antimicrobial therapy; licorice; Streptococcus mutans
3.  Systematic Approach to Optimizing Specifically Targeted Antimicrobial Peptides against Streptococcus mutans▿  
Previously we reported a novel strategy of “targeted killing” through the design of narrow-spectrum molecules known as specifically targeted antimicrobial peptides (STAMPs) (R. Eckert et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 50:3651-3657, 2006; R. Eckert et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 50:1480-1488, 2006). Construction of these molecules requires the identification and the subsequent utilization of two conjoined yet functionally independent peptide components: the targeting and killing regions. In this study, we sought to design and synthesize a large number of STAMPs targeting Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiologic agent of human dental caries, in order to identify candidate peptides with increased killing speed and selectivity compared with their unmodified precursor antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). We hypothesized that a combinatorial approach, utilizing a set number of AMP, targeting, and linker regions, would be an effective method for the identification of STAMPs with the desired level of activity. STAMPs composed of the Sm6 S. mutans binding peptide and the PL-135 AMP displayed selectivity at MICs after incubation for 18 to 24 h. A STAMP where PL-135 was replaced by the B-33 killing domain exhibited both selectivity and rapid killing within 1 min of exposure and displayed activity against multispecies biofilms grown in the presence of saliva. These results suggest that potent and selective STAMP molecules can be designed and improved via a tunable “building-block” approach.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01391-09
PMCID: PMC2863653  PMID: 20211885
4.  Achieving Probiotic Effects via Modulating Oral Microbial Ecology 
Advances in dental research  2009;21(1):53-56.
Unlike many pathogens are foreign invaders, oral “pathogens” such as Streptococcus mutans are part of the “normal” oral microbial flora. While they express certain pathogenic properties, the balance of synergistic and antagonistic interactions determines whether these çommensal pathogens cause damage or not. Recognition of these microbial ecology based pathogeneses argues for new strategies for disease treatment and prevention.
Probiotics, potentially beneficial live bacteria or yeasts, have been used to combat dental caries. This includes the application of S. mutans types that cannot produce acids or other bacteria that interfere with the pathogenic effects of S. mutans. While these approaches show therapeutic effects against S. mutans experimentally, the conversion into commercial products remains a challenge, due to safety and shelf life issues. New high-tech approaches, such as quorum sensing interference of pathogenic bacteria or targeted antimicrobial therapies, offer novel ways to achieve probiotic effects against dental caries.
doi:10.1177/0895937409335626
PMCID: PMC2777612  PMID: 19710082
5.  Interspecies Interactions within Oral Microbial Communities 
Summary: While reductionism has greatly advanced microbiology in the past 400 years, assembly of smaller pieces just could not explain the whole! Modern microbiologists are learning “system thinking” and “holism.” Such an approach is changing our understanding of microbial physiology and our ability to diagnose/treat microbial infections. This review uses oral microbial communities as a focal point to describe this new trend. With the common name “dental plaque,” oral microbial communities are some of the most complex microbial floras in the human body, consisting of more than 700 different bacterial species. For a very long time, oral microbiologists endeavored to use reductionism to identify the key genes or key pathogens responsible for oral microbial pathogenesis. The limitations of reductionism forced scientists to begin adopting new strategies using emerging concepts such as interspecies interaction, microbial community, biofilms, polymicrobial disease, etc. These new research directions indicate that the whole is much more than the simple sum of its parts, since the interactions between different parts resulted in many new physiological functions which cannot be observed with individual components. This review describes some of these interesting interspecies-interaction scenarios.
doi:10.1128/MMBR.00024-07
PMCID: PMC2168648  PMID: 18063722
6.  Novel Synthetic Antimicrobial Peptides against Streptococcus mutans▿  
Streptococcus mutans, a common oral pathogen and the causative agent of dental caries, has persisted and even thrived on the tooth surface despite constant removal and eradication efforts. In this study, we generated a number of synthetic antimicrobial peptides against this bacterium via construction and screening of several structurally diverse peptide libraries where the hydrophobicity and charge within each library was varied incrementally in order to generate a collection of peptides with different biochemical characteristics. From these libraries, we identified multiple peptides with robust killing activity against S. mutans. To further improve their effectiveness, the most bactericidal peptides from each library were synthesized together as one molecule, in various combinations, with and without a flexible peptide linker between each antimicrobial region. Many of these “fusion” peptides had enhanced killing activities in comparison with those of the original nonconjoined molecules. The results presented here illustrate that small libraries of biochemically constrained peptides can be used to generate antimicrobial peptides against S. mutans, several of which may be likely candidates for the development of anticaries agents.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01270-06
PMCID: PMC1855471  PMID: 17296741
7.  Enhancement of Antimicrobial Activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa by Coadministration of G10KHc and Tobramycin▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2006;50(11):3833-3838.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common opportunistic human pathogen that is associated with life-threatening acute infections and chronic airway colonization during cystic fibrosis. Previously, we converted the wide-spectrum antimicrobial peptide novispirin G10 into a selectively-targeted antimicrobial peptide (STAMP), G10KHc. Compared to novispirin G10, the STAMP had an enhanced ability to kill Pseudomonas mendocina. In this study, we explored the activity of G10KHc against P. aeruginosa. G10KHc was found to be highly active (as active as tobramycin) against P. aeruginosa clinical isolates. Most interestingly, we observed a synergistic-like enhancement in killing activity when biofilms and planktonic cultures of P. aeruginosa were cotreated with G10KHc and tobramycin. The data indicate that the mechanism of enhanced activity may involve increased tobramycin uptake due to G10KHc-mediated cell membrane disruption. These results suggest that G10KHc may be useful against P. aeruginosa during acute and chronic infection states, especially when it is coadministered with tobramycin.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00509-06
PMCID: PMC1635211  PMID: 16940063
8.  Targeted Killing of Streptococcus mutans by a Pheromone-Guided “Smart” Antimicrobial Peptide 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2006;50(11):3651-3657.
Within the repertoire of antibiotics available to a prescribing clinician, the majority affect a broad range of microorganisms, including the normal flora. The ecological disruption resulting from antibiotic treatment frequently results in secondary infections or other negative clinical consequences. To address this problem, our laboratory has recently developed a new class of pathogen-selective molecules, called specifically (or selectively) targeted antimicrobial peptides (STAMPs), based on the fusion of a species-specific targeting peptide domain with a wide-spectrum antimicrobial peptide domain. In the current study, we focused on achieving targeted killing of Streptococcus mutans, a cavity-causing bacterium that resides in a multispecies microbial community (dental plaque). In particular, we explored the possibility of utilizing a pheromone produced by S. mutans, namely, the competence stimulating peptide (CSP), as a STAMP targeting domain to mediate S. mutans-specific delivery of an antimicrobial peptide domain. We discovered that STAMPs constructed with peptides derived from CSP were potent against S. mutans grown in liquid or biofilm states but did not affect other oral streptococci tested. Further studies showed that an 8-amino-acid region within the CSP sequence is sufficient for targeted delivery of the antimicrobial peptide domain to S. mutans. The STAMPs presented here are capable of eliminating S. mutans from multispecies biofilms without affecting closely related noncariogenic oral streptococci, indicating the potential of these molecules to be developed into “probiotic” antibiotics which could selectively eliminate pathogens while preserving the protective benefits of a healthy normal flora.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00622-06
PMCID: PMC1635210  PMID: 17060534
9.  Adding Selectivity to Antimicrobial Peptides: Rational Design of a Multidomain Peptide against Pseudomonas spp. 
Currently available antimicrobials exhibit broad killing with regard to bacterial genera and species. Indiscriminate killing of microbes by these conventional antibiotics can disrupt the ecological balance of the indigenous microbial flora, often resulting in negative clinical consequences. Species-specific antimicrobials capable of precisely targeting pathogenic bacteria without damaging benign microorganisms provide a means of avoiding this problem. In this communication, we report the successful creation of the first synthetic, target-specific antimicrobial peptide, G10KHc, via addition of a rationally designed Pseudomonas-specific targeting moiety (KH) to a generally killing peptide (novispirin G10). The resulting chimeric peptide showed enhanced bactericidal activity and faster killing kinetics against Pseudomonas spp. than G10 alone. The enhanced killing activities are due to increased binding and penetration of the outer membrane of Pseudomonas sp. cells. These properties were not observed in tests of untargeted bacterial species, and this specificity allowed G10KHc to selectively eliminate Pseudomonas spp. from mixed cultures. This work lays a foundation for generating target-specific “smart” antimicrobials to complement currently available conventional antibiotics.
doi:10.1128/AAC.50.4.1480-1488.2006
PMCID: PMC1426969  PMID: 16569868
10.  Mutation of luxS Affects Biofilm Formation in Streptococcus mutans  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(4):1972-1979.
Quorum sensing is a bacterial mechanism for regulating gene expression in response to changes in population density. Many bacteria are capable of acyl-homoserine lactone-based or peptide-based intraspecies quorum sensing and luxS-dependent interspecies quorum sensing. While there is good evidence about the involvement of intraspecies quorum sensing in bacterial biofilm, little is known about the role of luxS in biofilm formation. In this study, we report for the first time that luxS-dependent quorum sensing is involved in biofilm formation of Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is a major cariogenic bacterium in the multispecies bacterial biofilm commonly known as dental plaque. An ortholog of luxS for S. mutans was identified using the data available in the S. mutans genome project (http://www.genome.ou.edu/smutans.html). Using an assay developed for the detection of the LuxS-associated quorum sensing signal autoinducer 2 (AI-2), it was demonstrated that this ortholog was able to complement the luxS negative phenotype of Escherichia coli DH5α. It was also shown that AI-2 is indeed produced by S. mutans. AI-2 production is maximal during mid- to late-log growth in batch culture. Mutant strains devoid of the luxS gene were constructed and found to be defective in producing the AI-2 signal. There are also marked phenotypic differences between the wild type and the luxS mutants. Microscopic analysis of in vitro-grown biofilm structure revealed that the luxS mutant biofilms adopted a much more granular appearance, rather than the relatively smooth, confluent layer normally seen in the wild type. These results suggest that LuxS-dependent signal may play an important role in biofilm formation of S. mutans.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.4.1972-1979.2003
PMCID: PMC152054  PMID: 12654815

Results 1-10 (10)