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J Med Chem. 2010 Aug 26;53(16):6079-88. doi: 10.1021/jm100483y.

Reverse engineering truncations of an antimicrobial peptide dimer to identify the origins of potency and broad spectrum of action.

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  • 1Malaria Research Laboratory, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Aruna Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi 110067, India.


Antimicrobial peptides hold promise against antibiotic resistant pathogens. Here, to find the physicochemical origins of potency and broad spectrum antimicrobial action, we report the structure-activity relationships of synthetic intermediates (peptides A-D) of a potent lysine branched dimeric antibacterial peptide DeltaFd. Our studies show that a tetracationic character in a weak helical fold (peptide C) elicits potent but narrow spectrum antimicrobial activity [Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) E. coli 10 microM, S. aureus>100 microM]. In contrast, a hexacationic character in a strong, amphipathic helix (DeltaFd) confers potent and broad spectrum action [MICs E. coli 2.5 microM, S. aureus 5 microM]. While DeltaFd caused rapid and potent permeabilization of the E. coli membranes, the less helical intermediates (peptides A-D) showed slow and weak to no responses. Two seminal findings that may aid future drug design are (a) at identical helicity, increasing charge enhanced outer membrane permeabilization, and (b) at identical charge, increasing helicity stimulated rate of outer membrane permeabilization and kill kinetics besides enhancing potency leading to broad spectrum action.

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