The widespread distribution of fungal infections, with their high morbidity and mortality rate, is a global public health problem. The increase in the population of immunocompromised patients combined with the selectivity of currents treatments and the emergence of drug-resistant fungal strains are among the most imperative reasons to develop novel antifungal formulations. Antimicrobial β-peptides are peptidomimetics of natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which have been proposed as developmental platforms to enhance the AMPs selectivity and biostability. Their tunability allows the design of sequences with remarkable activity against a wide spectrum of microorganisms such as the human pathogenic Candida spp., both in planktonic and biofilm morphology. However, the β-peptide's effect on surrounding host cells remains greatly understudied. Assessments have mainly relied on the extent of hemolysis that a candidate peptide is able to cause. This work investigated the in vitro cytotoxicity of various β-peptides in the Caco-2 and HepG2 mammalian cell lines. Results indicated that the cytotoxic effect of the β-peptides was influenced by cell type and was also correlated to structural features of the peptide such as hydrophobicity. We found that the selectivity of the most hydrophobic β-peptide was 2-3 times higher than that of the least hydrophobic one, for both cell types according to the selectivity index parameter (IC50/MIC). The IC50 of Caco-2 and HepG2 increased with hydrophobicity, which indicates the importance of testing putative therapeutics on different cell types. We report evidence of peptide-cell membrane interactions in Caco-2 and HepG2 using a widely studied β-peptide against C. albicans.
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