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The Antimicrobial Peptide Histatin-5 Causes a Spatially Restricted Disruption on the Candida albicans Surface, Allowing Rapid Entry of the Peptide into the Cytoplasm

DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000190

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Antimicrobial peptides play an important role in host defense against microbial pathogens. Their high cationic charge and strong amphipathic structure allow them to bind to the anionic microbial cell membrane and disrupt the membrane bilayer by forming pores or channels. In contrast to the classical pore-forming peptides, studies on histatin-5 (Hst-5) have suggested that the peptide is transported into the cytoplasm of Candida albicans in a non-lytic manner, and cytoplasmic Hst-5 exerts its candicidal activities on various intracellular targets, consistent with its weak amphipathic structure. To understand how Hst-5 is internalized, we investigated the localization of FITC-conjugated Hst-5. We find that Hst-5 is internalized into the vacuole through receptor-mediated endocytosis at low extracellular Hst-5 concentrations, whereas under higher physiological concentrations, Hst-5 is translocated into the cytoplasm through a mechanism that requires a high cationic charge on Hst-5. At intermediate concentrations, two cell populations with distinct Hst-5 localizations were observed. By cell sorting, we show that cells with vacuolar localization of Hst-5 survived, while none of the cells with cytoplasmic Hst-5 formed colonies. Surprisingly, extracellular Hst-5, upon cell surface binding, induces a perturbation on the cell surface, as visualized by an immediate and rapid internalization of Hst-5 and propidium iodide or rhodamine B into the cytoplasm from the site using time-lapse microscopy, and a concurrent rapid expansion of the vacuole. Thus, the formation of a spatially restricted site in the plasma membrane causes the initial injury to C. albicans and offers a mechanism for its internalization into the cytoplasm. Our study suggests that, unlike classical channel-forming antimicrobial peptides, action of Hst-5 requires an energized membrane and causes localized disruptions on the plasma membrane of the yeast. This mechanism of cell membrane disruption may provide species-specific killing with minimal damage to microflora and the host and may be used by many other antimicrobial peptides.


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