, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 515-528
Date: 01 Feb 2011

Cyclic antimicrobial R-, W-rich peptides: the role of peptide structure and E. coli outer and inner membranes in activity and the mode of action

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This study compares the effect of cyclic R-, W-rich peptides with variations in amino acid sequences and sizes from 5 to 12 residues upon Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria as well as outer membrane-deficient and LPS mutant Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains to analyze the structural determinants of peptide activity. Cyclo-RRRWFW (c-WFW) was the most active and E. coli-selective sequence and bactericidal at the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC). Removal of the outer membrane distinctly reduced peptide activity and the complete smooth LPS was required for maximal activity. c-WFW efficiently permeabilised the outer membrane of E. coli and promoted outer membrane substrate transport. Isothermal titration calorimetric studies with lipid A-, rough-LPS (r-LPS)- and smooth-LPS (s-LPS)-doped POPC liposomes demonstrated the decisive role of O-antigen and outer core polysaccharides for peptide binding and partitioning. Peptide activity against the inner E. coli membrane (IM) was very low. Even at a peptide to lipid ratio of 8/1, c-WFW was not able to permeabilise a phosphatidylglycerol/phosphatidylethanolamine (POPG/POPE) bilayer. Low influx of propidium iodide (PI) into bacteria confirmed a low permeabilising ability of c-WFW against PE-rich membranes at the MIC. Whilst the peptide effect upon eukaryotic cells correlated with the amphipathicity and permeabilisation of neutral phosphatidylcholine bilayers, suggesting a membrane disturbing mode of action, membrane permeabilisation does not seem to be the dominating antimicrobial mechanism of c-WFW. Peptide interactions with the LPS sugar moieties certainly modulate the transport across the outer membrane and are the basis of the E. coli selectivity of this type of peptides.

Membrane-active peptides: 455th WE-Heraeus-Seminar and AMP 2010 Workshop.