Antimicrobial and membrane disrupting activities of a peptide derived from the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide ll37

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A 21-residue peptide segment, LL7-27 (RKSKEKIGKEFKRIVQRIKDF), corresponding to residues 7-27 of the only human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, LL37, is shown to exhibit potent activity against microbes (particularly Gram-positive bacteria) but not against erythrocytes. The structure, membrane orientation, and target membrane selectivity of LL7-27 are characterized by differential scanning calorimetry, fluorescence, circular dichroism, and NMR experiments. An anilinonaphthalene-8-sulfonic acid uptake assay reveals two distinct modes of Escherichia coli outer membrane perturbation elicited by LL37 and LL7-27. The circular dichroism results show that conformational transitions are mediated by lipid-specific interactions in the case of LL7-27, unlike LL37. It folds into an [alpha]-helical conformation upon binding to anionic (but not zwitterionic) vesicles, and also does not induce dye leakage from zwitterionic lipid vesicles. Differential scanning calorimetry thermograms show that LL7-27 is completely integrated with DMPC/DMPG (3:1) liposomes, but induces peptide-rich and peptide-poor domains in DMPC liposomes..sup.15N NMR experiments on mechanically aligned lipid bilayers suggest that, like the full-length peptide LL37, the peptide LL7-27 is oriented close to the bilayer surface, indicating a carpet-type mechanism of action for the peptide..sup.31P NMR spectra obtained from POPC/POPG (3:1) bilayers containing LL7-27 show substantial disruption of the lipid bilayer structure and agree with the peptide's ability to induce dye leakage from POPC/POPG (3:1) vesicles. Cholesterol is shown to suppress peptide-induced disorder in the lipid bilayer structure. These results explain the susceptibility of bacteria and the resistance of erythrocytes to LL7-27, and may have implications for the design of membrane-selective therapeutic agents.

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