Acylation of SC4 dodecapeptide increases bactericidal potency against Gram-positive bacteria, including drug-resistant strains

Nathan A. Lockwood, Judith R. Haseman, Matthew V. Tirrell, Kevin H. Mayo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We have conjugated dodecyl and octadecyl fatty acids to the N-terminus of SC4, a potently bactericidal, helix-forming peptide 12-mer (KLFKRHLKWKII), and examined the bactericidal activities of the resultant SC4 'peptide-amphiphile' molecules. SC4 peptide-amphiphiles showed up to a 30-fold increase in bactericidal activity against Gram-positive strains (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes and Bacillus anthracis), including S. aureus strains resistant to conventional antibiotics, but little or no increase in bactericidal activity against Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa). Fatty acid conjugation improved endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide) neutralization by 3- to 6-fold. Although acylation somewhat increased lysis of human erythrocytes, it did not increase lysis of endothelial cells, and the haemolytic effects occurred at concentrations 10- to 100-fold higher than those required for bacterial cell lysis. For insight into the mechanism of action of SC4 peptide-amphiphiles, CD, NMR and fluorescence spectroscopy studies were performed in micelle and liposome models of eukaryotic and bacterial cell membranes. CD indicated that SC4 peptide-amphiphiles had the strongest helical tendencies in liposomes mimicking bacterial membranes, and strong membrane integration of the SC4 peptide-amphiphiles was observed using tryptophan fluorescence spectroscopy under these conditions; results that correlated with the increased bactericidal activities of SC4 peptide-amphiphiles. NMR structural analysis in micelles demonstrated that the two-thirds of the peptide closest to the fatty acid tail exhibited a helical conformation, with the positively-charged side of the amphipathic helix interacting more with the model membrane surface. These results indicate that conjugation of a fatty acid chain to the SC4 peptide enhances membrane interactions, stabilizes helical structure in the membrane-bound state and increases bactericidal potency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-103
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2004


  • Antibacterial peptide
  • CD
  • Fatty acid
  • NMR
  • Peptide-amphiphile


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