Structural correlates of antibacterial and membrane-permeabilizing activities in acylpolyamines

Rajalakshmi Balakrishna, Stewart J. Wood, Thuan B. Nguyen, Kelly A. Miller, E. V K Suresh Kumar, Apurba Datta, Sunil A. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


A homologous series of mono- and bis-acyl polyamines with varying acyl chain lengths originally synthesized for the purpose of sequestering lipopolysaccharide were evaluated for antimicrobial activity to test the hypothesis that these bis-cationic amphipathic compounds may also bind to and permeabilize intact gram-negative bacterial membranes. Some compounds were found to possess significant antimicrobial activity, mediated via permeabilization of bacterial membranes. Structure-activity relationship studies revealed a strong dependence of the acyl chain length on antimicrobial potency and permeabilization activity. Homologated spermine, bis-acylated with C8 or C9 chains, was found to profoundly sensitize Escherichia coli to hydrophobic antibiotics such as rifampin. Nonspecific cytotoxicity is a potential drawback of these membranophilic compounds. However, the surface activity of these cationic amphipaths is strongly attenuated under physiological conditions via binding to serum albumin. Significant antibacterial activity is still retained in the presence of physiological concentrations of human serum albumin, suggesting that these compounds may serve as leads in the development of novel adjuncts to conventional antimicrobial chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-861
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


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