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The growing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria necessitates the search for new antimicrobial agents and the principles by which they work. We report that cell membrane-permeant rhodamine B (RhB)-conjugated peptides based on the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate binding site of gelsolin can kill the gram-negative organisms Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the gram-positive organism Streptococcus pneumoniae. RhB linkage to the QRLFQVKGRR sequence in gelsolin was essential for the antibacterial function, since the unconjugated peptide had no effect on the bacteria tested. Because RhB-QRLFQVKGRR (also termed PBP10), its scrambled sequence (RhB-FRVKLKQGQR), and PBP10 synthesized from D-isomer amino acids show similar antibacterial properties, the physical and chemical properties of these derivatives appear to be more important than specific peptide folding for their antibacterial functions. The similar activities of PBP10 and all-D-amino-acid PBP10 also indicate that a specific interaction between RhB derivatives and bacterial proteins is unlikely to be involved in the bacterial killing function of PBP10. By using a phospholipid monolayer system, we found a positive correlation between the antibacterial function of PBP10, as well as some naturally occurring antibacterial peptides, and the intrinsic surface pressure activity at the hydrophobic-hydrophilic interface. Surprisingly, we observed little or no dependence of the insertion of these peptides into lipid monolayers on the phospholipid composition. These studies show that an effective antimicrobial agent can be produced from a peptide sequence with specificity to a phospholipid not found in bacteria, and comparisons with other antimicrobial agents suggest that the surface activities of these peptides are more important than specific binding to bacterial proteins or lipids for their antimicrobial functions.
Date Posted: 15 January 2008
This document has been peer reviewed.