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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Jan 15;1463(1):43-54.

Cationic peptide antimicrobials induce selective transcription of micF and osmY in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.


Cationic antimicrobial peptides, such as polymyxin and cecropin, activated transcription of osmY and micF in growing Escherichia coli independently of each other. The micF response required the presence of a functional rob gene. It is intriguing that in this and other assays an identical response profile was also seen with hyperosmotic salt or sucrose gradient, two of the most commonly used traditional food preservatives. The osmY and micF transcription was not induced by hypoosmotic gradient, ionophoric peptides, uncouplers, or with other classes of membrane perturbing agents. The antibacterial peptides did not promote transcription of genes that respond to macromolecular or oxidative damage, fatty acid biosynthesis, heat shock, or depletion of proton or ion gradients. These and other results show that the antibacterial cationic peptides induce stasis in the early growth phase, and the transcriptional efficacy of antibacterial peptides correlates with their minimum inhibitory concentration, and also with their ability to mediate direct exchange of phospholipids between vesicles. The significance of these results is developed as the hypothesis that the cationic peptide antimicrobials stress growth of Gram-negative organisms by making contacts between the two phospholipid interfaces in the periplasmic space and prevent the hyperosmotic wrinkling of the cytoplasmic membrane. Broader significance of these results, and of the hypothesis that the peptide mediated contacts between the periplasmic phospholipid interfaces are the primary triggers, is discussed in relation to antibacterial resistance.

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