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Biochemistry. 1994 Sep 13;33(36):10951-60.

Spectrum of antimicrobial activity and assembly of dermaseptin-b and its precursor form in phospholipid membranes.

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Department of Membrane Research and Biophysics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Dermaseptins are 27-34 amino acid antimicrobial peptides that irreversibly inhibit growth of pathogenic filamentous fungi, in addition to their ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and protozoa. Synthetic peptides, with sequences corresponding to dermaseptin-b (DS-b) and its N-terminal extended precursor form dermaseptin-B (DS-B), were synthesized and investigated with respect to their spectrum of antimicrobial activity and their mode of interaction with model membranes composed of PS or PC/PS phospholipids. We found that DS-B is much more potent than DS-b against all microorganisms tested. Furthermore, despite significant structural identity between DS-b and DS-S (Pouny et al., 1992), only the former is highly effective at inhibiting the growth of filamentous fungi. The peptides were labeled selectively at their N-terminal amino acid with either 7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazol-4-yl (NBD) or rhodamine fluorescent probes, which facilitated the determination of their partition coefficients with phospholipid membranes and their organization in their membrane-bound state. The partition coefficients of DS-B are 10-fold higher than those of DS-b and DS-S, with both acidic and zwitterionic phospholipid vesicles. This may explain the ability of DS-B to permeate both types of vesicles efficiently. Furthermore, while both DS-b and DS-B interact with phospholipid membranes in a noncooperative manner, they are self-associated in their membrane-bound state. This noncooperative binding probably prevents aggregation of the peptides on the surface of outer bacterial membranes, and assists them in efficiently diffusing into the inner target membranes. The exceptional property of DS-B to bind strongly to phospholipid membranes and to form small bundles correlates with its high potential to kill yeast and filamentous fungi. As a molecular model, dermaseptins may be of potential interest in drug design, particularly in antifungal warfare.

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