Bacterial Membrane Selective Antimicrobial Peptide-Mimetic Polyurethanes: Structure–Property Correlations and Mechanisms of Action

The rise in prevalence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is a very significant challenge for treating life-threatening infections worldwide. A source of novel therapeutics that has shown great promise is a class of biomolecules known as antimicrobial peptides. Previously, within our laboratories, we developed a new family of water-soluble antimicrobial polyurethanes that mimic antimicrobial peptides. Within this current investigation, studies were carried out to gain a greater understanding of the structure/property relationships of the polyurethanes. This was achieved by synthesizing a variety of pendant group functionalized polyurethanes and testing their effectiveness as an antimicrobial by carrying out minimum inhibitory concentration testing and determining their compatibility with blood cells. Additionally, insight into the mode of action of the polyurethanes was obtained through experiments using dye encapsulated phospholipids and assays of bacterial cells that indicated the ability of the polyurethanes to penetrate and disrupt membranes. Collectively, the results indicate that the addition of hydrophobic, uncharged polar, and anionic moieties do not have a strong influence on the antimicrobial activity; yet, the addition of hydrophobic groups enhances cytoplasmic membrane disruption, a larger proportion of cationic pendant groups promotes greater outer membrane disruption of Gram negative bacteria, and uncharged polar groups and anionic groups improve compatibility of the polyurethanes with mammalian cells.