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The effect of lipidation and glycosylation on short cationic antimicrobial peptides

By E Grimsey, DWP Collis, R Mikut and K Hilpert


The global health threat surrounding bacterial resistance has resulted in antibiotic researchers shifting their focus away from ‘traditional’ antibiotics and concentrating on other antimicrobial agents, including antimicrobial peptides. These low molecular weight "mini-proteins" exhibit broad-spectrum activity against bacteria, including multi-drug resistant strains, viruses, fungi and protozoa and constitute a major element of the innate-immune system of many multicellular organisms. Some naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides are lipidated and/or glycosylated and almost all antimicrobial peptides in clinical use are either lipopeptides (Daptomycin and Polymyxin E and B) or glycopeptides (Vancomycin). Lipidation, glycosylation and PEGylation are an option for improving stability and activity in serum and for reducing the rapid clearing via the kidneys and liver. Two broad-spectrum antimicrobial peptides NH2-RIRIRWIIR-CONH2 (A1) and NH2-KRRVRWIIW-CONH2 (B1) were conjugated via a linker, producing A2 and B2, to individual fatty acids of C8, C10, C12 and C14 and in addition, A2 was conjugated to either glucose, N-acetyl glucosamine, galactose, mannose, lactose or polyethylene glycol (PEG). Antimicrobial activity against two Gram-positive strains (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE)) and three Gram-negative strains (Salmonella typhimurium, E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) were determined. Activity patterns for the lipidated versions are very complex, dependent on sequence, bacteria and fatty acid. Two reciprocal effects were measured; compared to the parental peptides, some combinations led to a 16-fold improvement whereas other combinations let to a 32-fold reduction in antimicrobial activity. Glycosylation decreased antimicrobial activity by 2 to 16-fold in comparison to A1, respectively on the sugar-peptide combination. PEGylation rendered the peptide inactive. Antimicrobial activity in the presence of 25% human serum of A1 and B1 was reduced 32-fold and 8-fold, respectively. The longer chain fatty acids almost completely restored this activity; however, these fatty acids increased hemolytic activity. B1 modified with C8 increased the therapeutic index by 2-fold for four bacterial strains. Our results suggest that finding the right lipid-peptide combination can lead to improved activity in the presence of serum and potentially more effective drug candidates for animal studies. Glycosylation with the optimal sugar and numbers of sugars at the right peptide position could be an alternative route or could be used in addition to lipidation to counteract solubility and toxicity issues

Publisher: 'Elsevier BV'
Year: 2020
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2020.183195
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