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Protein Eng. 2002 Mar;15(3):225-32.

Impact of single-residue mutations on the structure and function of ovispirin/novispirin antimicrobial peptides.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City 52242, USA.


We studied three model antibacterial peptides that resembled the N-terminal 18 amino acids of SMAP-29, an alpha-helical, antimicrobial peptide of sheep. Although the parent compound, ovispirin-1 (KNLRR IIRKI IHIIK KYG), was potently antimicrobial, it was also highly cytotoxic to human epithelial cells and hemolytic for human erythrocytes. Single residue substitutions to ovispirin-1 yielded two substantially less cytotoxic peptides (novispirins), with intact antimicrobial properties. One of these, novispirin G-10, differed from ovispirin-1 only by containing glycine at position 10, instead of isoleucine. The other, novispirin T-7, contained threonine instead of isoleucine at position 7. We determined the three-dimensional solution structures of all three peptides by circular dichroism spectroscopy and two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Although all retained an amphipathic helical structure in 2,2,2-trifluoroethanol, they manifested subtle fine-structural changes that evidently impacted their activities greatly. These findings show that simple structural modifications can 'fine-tune' an antimicrobial peptide to minimize unwanted cytotoxicity while retaining its desired activity.

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