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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Dec;1818(12):3019-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2012.07.021. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Does cholesterol suppress the antimicrobial peptide induced disruption of lipid raft containing membranes?

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Biophysics and Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1055, USA.


The activity of antimicrobial peptides has been shown to depend on the composition of the target cell membrane. The bacterial selectivity of most antimicrobial peptides has been attributed to the presence of abundant acidic phospholipids and the absence of cholesterol in bacterial membranes. The high amount of cholesterol present in eukaryotic cell membranes is thought to prevent peptide-induced membrane disruption by increasing the cohesion and stiffness of the lipid bilayer membrane. While the role of cholesterol on an antimicrobial peptide-induced membrane disrupting activity has been reported for simple, homogeneous lipid bilayer systems, it is not well understood for complex, heterogeneous lipid bilayers exhibiting phase separation (or "lipid rafts"). In this study, we show that cholesterol does not inhibit the disruption of raft-containing 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine:1,2-dipalmitoyol-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine model membranes by four different cationic antimicrobial peptides, MSI-78, MSI-594, MSI-367 and MSI-843 which permeabilize membranes. Conversely, the presence of cholesterol effectively inhibits the disruption of non-raft containing 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine or 1,2-dipalmitoyol-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine lipid bilayers, even for antimicrobial peptides that do not show a clear preference between the ordered gel and disordered liquid-crystalline phases. Our results show that the peptide selectivity is not only dependent on the lipid phase but also on the presence of phase separation in heterogeneous lipid systems.

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