Deletion of all cysteines in tachyplesin I abolishes hemolytic activity and retains antimicrobial activity and lipopolysaccharide selective binding

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Tachyplesin I is a cyclic beta-sheet antimicrobial peptide isolated from the hemocytes of Tachypleus tridentatus. The four cysteine residues in tachyplesin I play a structural role in imparting amphipathicity to the peptide which has been shown to be essential for its activity. We investigated the role of amphipathicity using an analogue of tachyplesin I (TP-I), CDT (KWFRVYRGIYRRR-NH2), in which all four cysteines were deleted. Like TP-I, CDT shows antimicrobial activity and disrupts Escherichia coli outer membrane and model membranes mimicking bacterial inner membranes at micromolar concentrations. The CDT peptide does not cause hemolysis up to 200 mu g/mL while TP-I showed about 10% hemolysis at 100 mu g/mL and about 25% hemolysis at 150 mu g/mL. Peptide-into-lipid titrations under isothermal conditions reveal that the interaction of CDT with lipid membranes is an enthalpy-driven process. Binding assays performed using fluorometry demonstrate that the peptide CDT binds and inserts into only negatively charged membranes. The peptide-induced thermotropic phase transition of MLVs formed of DMPC and the DMPC/DMPG (7:3) mixture suggests specific lipid-peptide interactions. The circular dichroism study shows that the peptide exists as an unordered structure in an aqueous buffer and adopts a more ordered, beta-structure upon binding to negatively charged membrane. The NMR data suggest that CDT binding to negatively charged bilayers induces a change in the lipid headgroup conformation with the lipid headgroup moving out of the bilayer surface toward the water phase, and therefore, a barrel stave mechanism of membrane disruption is unlikely as the peptide is located near the headgroup region of lipids. The lamellar phase P-31 chemical shift spectra observed at various concentrations of the peptide in bilayers suggest that the peptide may function neither via fragmentation of bilayers nor by promoting nonlamellar structures. NMR and fluorescence data suggest that the presence of cholesterol inhibits the peptide binding to the bilayers. These properties help to explain that cysteine residues may not contribute to antimicrobial activity and that the loss of hemolytic activity is due to lack of hydrophobicity and amphipathicity.

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