Scientific reports

An engineered arginine-rich α-helical antimicrobial peptide exhibits broad-spectrum bactericidal activity against pathogenic bacteria and reduces bacterial infections in mice.

PMID 30279591


The increase in the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become a major public health concern. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are emerging as promising candidates addressing this issue. In this study, we designed several AMPs by increasing α-helical contents and positive charges and optimizing hydrophobicity and amphipathicity in the Sushi 1 peptide from horseshoe crabs. A neural network-based bioinformatic prediction tool was used for the first stage evaluations of peptide properties. Among the peptides designed, Sushi-replacement peptide (SRP)-2, an arginine-rich and highly α-helical peptide, showed broad-spectrum bactericidal activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii; nevertheless, it showed little hemolytic and cytotoxic activity against mammalian cells. Atomic force microscopy results indicated that SRP-2 should interact directly with cell membrane components, resulting in bacterial cell death. SRP-2 also neutralized LPS-induced macrophage activation. Moreover, in an intraperitoneal multidrug-resistant A. baumannii infection mouse model, SRP-2 successfully reduced the bacterial number in ascitic fluid and tumor necrosis factor-α production. Our study findings demonstrate that bioinformatic calculations can be powerful tools to help design potent AMPs and that arginine is superior to lysine for providing positive charges for AMPs to exhibit better bactericidal activity and selectivity against bacterial cells.