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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1998 Nov 10;1376(3):391-400.

Magainins as paradigm for the mode of action of pore forming polypeptides.

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Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Magainins are a class of antimicrobial peptides discovered in the skin of Xenopus laevis. The peptides kill bacteria by permeabilizing the cell membranes without exhibiting significant toxicity against mammalian cells, and are a promising candidate for a new antibiotic of therapeutic value. The main target of the peptides are considered to be the lipid matrix of the membranes. This review summarizes studies on magainin-lipid interactions in comparison with other pore forming peptides. The selective toxicity can be at least partly explained by preferential interactions of magainins with anionic phospholipids abundant in bacterial membranes. A novel mode of action is discussed in detail, i.e., the formation of a dynamic peptide-lipid supramolecular pore, which allows the mutually coupled transbilayer transport of ions, lipids, and peptides per se.

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