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Biochemistry. 2009 Dec 1;48(47):11264-72. doi: 10.1021/bi900996q.

Fluorescence and UV resonance Raman study of peptide-vesicle interactions of human cathelicidin LL-37 and its F6W and F17W mutants.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University ofCalifornia at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


LL-37 is a broad-spectrum human antimicrobial peptide in the cathelicidin family. Potency assays in the form of minimal inhibitory concentration and vesicle leakage indicate that the single-tryptophan mutants, F6W and F17W, are as effective at killing bacteria and disrupting membranes as the native, tryptophan-free LL-37 peptide. Steady-state fluorescence and UV resonance Raman spectroscopy of F6W and F17W reveal molecular details of these tryptophan residues. The local environment polarity, hydrogen bond strength of the indole N-H moiety, and rotational freedom decrease for both F6W and F17W in the presence of carbonate ions relative to in pure distilled water; these results are consistent with burial of the hydrophobic region of alpha-helical LL-37 in oligomeric cores induced in the presence of carbonate ions. Differences in the spectroscopic properties of the carbonate-induced alpha-helical forms of F6W and F17W reflect the presence of a local lysine residue near F6W that makes the microenvironment of F6W more polar than that of F17W. In the presence of lipid vesicles, the mutants undergo additional loss of environment polarity, hydrogen bond strength, and rotational freedom. Quenching experiments utilizing brominated lipids reveal that the tryptophan residues in both mutants are essentially equidistant from the bilayer center and that bromines closer to the bilayer center, in the 9,10 positions, quench fluorescence more efficiently than those closer to the headgroups (6,7 positions). These results support carpeting or toroidal pore mechanisms of membrane disruption by LL-37 and demonstrate that the combination of tryptophan mutants and sensitive spectroscopic tools may provide important molecular clues about antimicrobial action.

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