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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1989 Aug 7;983(2):135-41.

Mechanism of membrane damage induced by the amphipathic peptides gramicidin S and melittin.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama University, Japan.


The action of gramicidin S and melittin on human erythrocytes, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli was studied as an extension of the previous study (Katsu, T., Ninomiya, C., Kuroko, M., Kobayashi, H., Hirota, T. and Fujita, Y. (1988) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 939, 57-63). These amphipathic peptides stimulated the release of membrane phospholipids outside cells in a concentration range causing permeability change. The shape change of erythrocytes from normal discoid to spiculate form was observed just prior to the release of membrane components. We have proposed the following action mechanism of gramicidin S and melittin. The peptide molecules were predominantly accumulated in the outer half of the bilayer, deforming the erythrocyte cell into crenature. A large accumulation made the membrane structure unstable, resulting in the release of membrane fragments and the simultaneous enhancement of permeability. The action mechanism of these peptides was compared with that of simple surfactants.

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