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PLOS ONE  2014 

Side Chain Hydrophobicity Modulates Therapeutic Activity and Membrane Selectivity of Antimicrobial Peptide Mastoparan-X

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091007

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The discovery of new anti-infective compounds is stagnating and multi-resistant bacteria continue to emerge, threatening to end the “antibiotic era”. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and lipo-peptides such as daptomycin offer themselves as a new potential class of antibiotics; however, further optimization is needed if AMPs are to find broad use as antibiotics. In the present work, eight analogues of mastoparan-X (MPX) were investigated, having side chain modifications in position 1, 8 and 14 to modulate peptide hydrophobicity. The self-association properties of the peptides were characterized, and the peptide-membrane interactions in model membranes were compared with the bactericidal and haemolytic properties. Alanine substitution at position 1 and 14 resulted in higher target selectivity (red blood cells versus bacteria), but also decreased bactericidal potency. For these analogues, the gain in target selectivity correlated to biophysical parameters showing an increased effective charge and reduction in the partitioning coefficient for membrane insertion. Introduction of an unnatural amino acid, with an octyl side chain by amino acid substitution, at positions 1, 8 and 14 resulted in increased bactericidal potency at the expense of radically reduced membrane target selectivity. Overall, optimized membrane selectivity or bactericidal potency was achieved by changes in side chain hydrophobicity of MPX. However, enhanced potency was achieved at the expense of selectivity and vice versa in all cases.


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