Acta biomaterialia

Self-assembling diphenylalanine peptide nanotubes selectively eradicate bacterial biofilm infection.

PMID 30031161


Biofilms present a major problem to industry and healthcare worldwide. Composed of a population of surface-attached microbial cells surrounded by a protective extracellular polysaccharide matrix, they are responsible for increased tolerance to antibiotics, treatment failure and a resulting rise in antimicrobial resistance. Here we demonstrate that self-assembled peptide nanostructures composed of a diphenylalanine motif provide sufficient antibacterial activity to eradicate mature biofilm forms of bacteria widely implicated in hospital infections. Modification of terminal functional groups to amino (-NH2), carboxylic acid (-COOH) or both modalities, and switch to d-isomers, resulted in changes in antibacterial selectivity and mammalian cell toxicity profiles. Of the three peptide nanotubes structures studied (NH2-FF-COOH, NH2-ff-COOH and NH2-FF-NH2), NH2-FF-COOH demonstrated the most potent activity against both planktonic (liquid, free-floating) and biofilm forms of bacteria, possessing minimal mammalian cell toxicity. NH2-FF-COOH resulted in greater than 3 Log10 CFU/mL viable biofilm reduction (>99.9%) at 5 mg/mL and total biofilm kill at 10 mg/mL against Staphylococcus aureus after 24 h exposure. Scanning electron microscopy proved that antibiofilm activity was primarily due to the formation of ion channels and/or surfactant-like action, with NH2-FF-COOH and NH2-ff-COOH capable of degrading the biofilm matrix and disrupting cell membranes, leading to cell death in Gram-positive bacterial isolates. Peptide-based nanotubes are an exciting platform for drug delivery and engineering applications. This is the first report of using peptide nanotubes to eradicate bacterial biofilms and provides evidence of a new platform that may alleviate their negative impact throughout society. We outline, for the first time, the antibiofilm activity of diphenylalanine (FF) peptide nanotubes. Biofilm bacteria exhibit high tolerance to antimicrobials 10-10,000 times that of free-flowing planktonic forms. Biofilm infections are difficult to treat using conventional antimicrobial agents, leading to a rise in antimicrobial resistance. We discovered nanotubes composed of NH2-FF-COOH demonstrated potent activity against staphylococcal biofilms implicated in hospital infections, resulting in complete kill at concentrations of 10 mg/mL. Carboxylic acid terminated FF nanotubes were able to destroy the exopolysaccharide architecture of staphylococcal biofilms expressing minimal toxicity, highlighting their potential for use in patients. Amidated (NH2-FF-NH2) forms demonstrated reduced antibiofilm efficacy and significant toxicity. These results contribute significantly to the development of innovative antibacterial technologies and peptide nanomaterials.