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Bioconjug Chem. 2004 May-Jun;15(3):530-5.

Promotion of peptide antimicrobial activity by fatty acid conjugation.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California-Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.


Three peptides, YGAA[KKAAKAA](2) (AKK), KLFKRHLKWKII (SC4), and YG[AKAKAAKA](2) (KAK), were conjugated with lauric acid and tested for the effect on their structure, antibacterial activity, and eukaryotic cell toxicity. The conjugated AKK and SC4 peptides showed increased antimicrobial activity relative to unconjugated peptides, but the conjugated KAK peptide did not. The circular dichroism spectrum of AKK showed a significantly larger increase in its alpha-helical content in the conjugated form than peptide KAK in a solution containing phosphatidylethanolamine/phosphotidylglycerol vesicles, which mimics bacterial membranes. The KAK and AKK peptides and their corresponding fatty acid conjugates showed little change in their structure in the presence of phosphatidylcholine vesicles, which mimic the cell membrane of eukaryotic cells. The hemolytic activity of the KAK and AKK peptides and conjugates was low. However, the SC4 fatty acid conjugate showed a large increase in hemolytic activity and a corresponding increase in helical content in the presence of phosphatidylcholine vesicles. These results support the model of antimicrobial peptide hemolytic and antimicrobial activity being linked to changes in secondary structure as the peptides interact with lipid membranes. Fatty acid conjugation may improve the usefulness of peptides as antimicrobial agents by enhancing their ability to form secondary structures upon interacting with the bacterial membranes.

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