Indexed on: 12 Sep '08Published on: 12 Sep '08Published in: Biochemistry
Antimicrobial lipopeptides are produced nonribosomally in bacteria and fungi during cultivation. They are composed of a cationic or an anionic peptide covalently bound to a specifically modified aliphatic chain. Most of the peptidic moieties have complex cyclic structures. Here we report that conjugation of a palmitic acid to the N-terminus of very short cationic di- and tripeptides composed of all l- and d, l-amino acids endowed them with potent antimicrobial activities. Interestingly, cell specificity was determined by the sequence of the short peptidic chain. Palmitoyllysine served as a control and was inactive toward all microorganisms tested. Replacing an l-amino acid with its d-enantiomer did not affect the activity of the corresponding lipopeptides. Importantly, selected lipopeptides were also potent in vivo in a mouse model of Candida albicans infection. Bacterial leakage experiments and negative staining electron microscopy suggest that their mode of action involves permeation and disintegration of the microorganism's membrane, similar to many long antimicrobial peptides and lipopeptides. Interestingly, each lipopeptide assembled in solution into a nanostructure with a unique morphology which could partially explain differences in their biological activity. Besides adding important information on the parameters necessary for antimicrobial lipopeptides to kill microorganisms, the simple composition of these minilipopeptides and their diverse cell specificities make them attractive candidates for various applications.