Antimicrobial peptides represent an alternative to traditional antibiotics that may be less susceptible to bacterial resistance mechanisms by directly attacking the bacterial cell membrane. However, bacteria have a variety of defense mechanisms that can prevent cationic antimicrobial peptides from reaching the cell membrane. The L- and D-enantiomers of the antimicrobial peptide GL13K were tested against the Gram-positive bacteria Enterococcus faecalis and Streptococcus gordonii to understand the role of bacterial proteases and cell wall modifications in bacterial resistance. GL13K was derived from the human salivary protein BPIFA2. Minimal inhibitory concentrations were determined by broth dilution and a serial assay used to determine bacterial resistance. Peptide degradation was determined in a bioassay utilizing a luminescent strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to detect peptide activity. Autolysis and D-alanylation-deficient strains of E. faecalis and S. gordonii were tested in autolysis assays and peptide activity assays. E. faecalis protease inactivated L-GL13K but not D-GL13K, whereas autolysis did not affect peptide activity. Indeed, the D-enantiomer appeared to kill the bacteria prior to initiation of autolysis. D-alanylation mutants were killed by L-GL13K whereas this modification did not affect killing by D-GL13K. The mutants regained resistance to L-GL13K whereas bacteria did not gain resistance to D-GL13K after repeated treatment with the peptides. D-alanylation affected the hydrophobicity of bacterial cells but hydrophobicity alone did not affect GL13K activity. D-GL13K evades two resistance mechanisms in Gram-positive bacteria without giving rise to substantial new resistance. D-GL13K exhibits attractive properties for further antibiotic development.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was partially supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health (R01 DE017989 to S.-U.G); an institutional post-doctoral fellowship (to J.W.H.) from the University of Minnesota MinnCResT program funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (T90 DE0227232); an individual postdoctoral fellowship funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (F32DE02578 to J.W.H.) and the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (to S.-U.G.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.