The importance of being kinked: role of Pro residues in the selectivity of the helical antimicrobial peptide P5.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are promising compounds for developing new antibiotic drugs against drug-resistant bacteria. Many of them kill bacteria by perturbing their membranes but exhibit no significant toxicity towards eukaryotic cells. The identification of the features responsible for this selectivity is essential for their pharmacological development. AMPs exhibit few conserved features, but a statistical analysis of an AMP sequence database indicated that many α-helical AMPs surprisingly have a helix-breaking Pro residue in the middle of their sequence. To discriminate among the different possible hypotheses for the functional role of this feature, we designed an analogue of the antimicrobial peptide P5, in which the central Pro was deleted (analogue P5Del). Pro removal resulted in a dramatic increase of toxicity. This was explained by the observation that P5Del binds both charged and neutral membranes, whereas P5 has no appreciable affinity towards neutral bilayers. CD and simulative data provided a rationalization of this behavior. In solution P5, due to the presence of Pro, attains compact conformations, in which its apolar residues are partially shielded from the solvent, whereas P5Del is more helical. These structural differences reduce the hydrophobic driving force for association of P5 to neutral membranes, whereas its binding to anionic bilayers can still take place because of electrostatic attraction. After membrane binding, the Pro residue does not preclude the attainment of a membrane-active amphiphilic helical conformation. These findings shed light on the role of Pro residues in the selectivity of AMPs and provide hints for the design of new, highly selective compounds.

DOI: 10.1002/psc.2574

Cite this paper

@article{Bobone2013TheIO, title={The importance of being kinked: role of Pro residues in the selectivity of the helical antimicrobial peptide P5.}, author={Sara Bobone and Gianfranco Bocchinfuso and Yoonkyung Park and Antonio Palleschi and Kyung-soo Hahm and Lorenzo Stella}, journal={Journal of peptide science : an official publication of the European Peptide Society}, year={2013}, volume={19 12}, pages={758-69} }