The importance of bacterial membrane composition in the structure and function of aurein 2.2 and selected variants

John T.J. Cheng, John D. Hale, Melissa Elliott, Robert E.W. Hancock, Suzana K. Straus

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For cationic antimicrobial peptides to become useful therapeutic agents, it is important to understand their mechanism of action. To obtain high resolution data, this involves studying the structure and membrane interaction of these peptides in tractable model bacterial membranes rather than directly utilizing more complex bacterial surfaces. A number of lipid mixtures have been used as bacterial mimetics, including a range of lipid headgroups, and different ratios of neutral to negatively charged headgroups. Here we examine how the structure and membrane interaction of aurein 2.2 and some of its variants depend on the choice of lipids, and how these models correlate with activity data in intact bacteria (MICs, membrane depolarization). Specifically, we investigated the structure and membrane interaction of aurein 2.2 and aurein 2.3 in 1:1 cardiolipin/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1′-rac-glycerol) (CL/POPG) (mol/mol), as an alternative to 1:1 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine(POPC)/POPG and a potential model for Gram positive bacteria such as S. aureus. The structure and membrane interaction of aurein 2.2, aurein 2.3, and five variants of aurein 2.2 were also investigated in 1:1 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (POPE)/POPG (mol/mol) lipids as a possible model for other Gram positive bacteria, such as Bacillus cereus. Solution circular dichroism (CD) results demonstrated that the aurein peptides adopted α-helical structure in all lipid membranes examined, but demonstrated a greater helical content in the presence of POPE/POPG membranes. Oriented CD and 31P NMR results showed that the aurein peptides had similar membrane insertion profiles and headgroup disordering effects on POPC/POPG and CL/POPG bilayers, but demonstrated reduced membrane insertion and decreased headgroup disordering on mixing with POPE/POPG bilayers at low peptide concentrations. Since the aurein peptides behaved very differently in POPE/POPG membrane, minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of the aurein peptides in B. cereus strain C737 were determined. The MIC results indicated that all aurein peptides are significantly less active against B. cereus than against S. aureus and S. epidermidis. Overall, the data suggest that it is important to use a relevant model for bacterial membranes to gain insight into the mode of action of a given antimicrobial peptide in specific bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-633
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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