Tuning the biological properties of amphipathic alpha-helical antimicrobial peptides: rational use of minimal amino acid substitutions.

Research paper by Igor I Zelezetsky, Ulrike U Pag, Hans-Georg HG Sahl, Alessandro A Tossi

Indexed on: 09 Jun '05Published on: 09 Jun '05Published in: Peptides


In nature, alpha-helical antimicrobial peptides present the small and flexible residue glycine at positions 7 or 14 with a significant frequency. Based on the sequence of the non-proteinogenic alpha-helical model peptide P1(Aib7), with a potent, broad spectrum antimicrobial activity, six peptides were designed by effecting a single amino acid substitution to investigate how tuning the structural characteristics at position 7 could lead to optimization of selectivity without affecting antimicrobial activity against a broad panel of multidrug resistant bacterial and yeast indicator strains. The relationship between structural features (size/hydrophobicity of the side chain as well as conformation and flexibility) and biological activity, in terms of minimum inhibitory concentration, membrane permeabilization kinetics and lysis of red blood cells are discussed. On conversion of the peptide to proteinogenic residues, these principles allowed development of a potent antimicrobial peptide with a reduced cytotoxicity. However, while results suggest that both hydrophobicity of residue 7 and chain flexibility at this position can be modulated to improve selectivity, position 14 is less tolerant of substitutions.