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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 Jul;49(7):2845-50.

Antimicrobial and chemoattractant activity, lipopolysaccharide neutralization, cytotoxicity, and inhibition by serum of analogs of human cathelicidin LL-37.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Lund, Sweden.


Antimicrobial peptides have been evaluated in vitro and in vivo as alternatives to conventional antibiotics. Apart from being antimicrobial, the native human cathelicidin-derived peptide LL-37 (amino acids [aa] 104 to 140 of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide) also binds and neutralizes bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and might therefore have beneficial effects in the treatment of septic shock. However, clinical trials have been hampered by indications of toxic effects of LL-37 on mammalian cells and evidence that its antimicrobial effects are inhibited by serum. For the present study, LL-37 was compared to two less hydrophobic fragments obtained by N-terminal truncation, named 106 (aa 106 to 140) and 110 (aa 110 to 140), and to a previously described more hydrophobic variant, the 18-mer LLKKK, concerning antimicrobial properties, lipopolysaccharide neutralization, toxicity against human erythrocytes and cultured vascular smooth muscle cells, chemotactic activity, and inhibition by serum. LL-37, fragments 106 and 110, and the 18-mer LLKKK inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans in a radial diffusion assay, inhibited lipopolysaccharide-induced vascular nitric oxide production, and attracted neutrophil granulocytes similarly. While fragments 106 and 110 caused less hemolysis and DNA fragmentation in cultured cells than did LL-37, the 18-mer LLKKK induced severe hemolysis. The antibacterial effect of fragments 106 and 110 was not affected by serum, while the effect of LL-37 was reduced. We concluded that the removal of N-terminal hydrophobic amino acids from LL-37 decreases its cytotoxicity as well as its inhibition by serum without negatively affecting its antimicrobial or LPS-neutralizing action. Such LL-37-derived peptides may thus be beneficial for the treatment of patients with sepsis.

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