Cationic peptides, known to disrupt bacterial membranes, are being developed as promising agents for therapeutic intervention against infectious disease. In the present study, we investigate structure-activity relationships in the bacterial membrane disruptor βpep-25, a peptide 33-mer. For insight into which amino acid residues are functionally important, we synthesized alanine-scanning variants of βpep-25 and assessed their ability to kill bacteria (Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus) and to neutralize LPS (lipopolysaccharide). Activity profiles were found to vary with the bacterial strain examined. Specific cationic and smaller hydrophobic alkyl residues were crucial to optimal bactericidal activity against the Gram-negative bacteria, whereas larger hydrophobic and cationic residues mediated optimal activity against Gram-positive Staph. aureus. Lysine-substituted norleucine (n-butyl group) variants demonstrated that both charge and alkyl chain length mediate optimal activity. In terms of LPS neutralization, activity profiles were essentially the same against four species of LPS (E. coli 055 and 0111, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium and Klebsiella pneumoniae), and different for two others (Ps. aeruginosa and Serratia marcescens), with specific hydrophobic, cationic and, surprisingly, anionic residues being functionally important. Furthermore, disulfide-bridged analogues demonstrated that an anti parallel β-sheet structure is the bioactive conformation of βpep-25 in terms of its bactericidal, but not LPS endotoxin neutralizing, activity. Moreover, βpep-25 variants, like the parent peptide, do not lyse eukaryotic cells. This research contributes to the development and design of novel antibiotics.
- Endotoxin neutralizing