Coordination-Assisted Self-Assembled Polypeptide Nanogels to Selectively Combat Bacterial Infection

In the present scenario, the invention of bacteria-selective antimicrobial agent comprising negligible toxicity and hemolytic effect is a great challenge. To surmount this challenge, here, a series of polypeptide nanogels (PNGs) have been fabricated by a coordination-assisted self-assembly of a mannose-conjugated antimicrobial polypeptide, poly­(arginine-r-valine)-mannose (poly­(Arg-r-Val)-M2), with Zn2+ ions. The fabricated PNGs are spherical in shape with a unique structural appearance similar to that of Taxus baccata fruits. PNGs, with a unique structural arrangement and threshold surface charge density, selectively interact with the bacterial membrane and exhibit potent antimicrobial activity, as reflected in their lower minimum inhibitory concentration values (varies from 2 to 16 μg/mL). PNGs show a remarkably high binding constant, 6.02 × 105 M–1 (from isothermal titration calorimetry, ITC), with the bacterial membrane which manifests its potent bactericidal effect. PNGs are nontoxic against mammalian and red blood cells as reflected from their higher cell viability and insignificant hemolytic effect. PNGs are taken up by the bacterial membrane and selectively undergo structural deformation (scrutinized by ITC) followed by an exposure of free poly­(Arg-r-Val)-M2 molecules. The free poly­(Arg-r-Val)-M2 molecules are enforced to lyse the bacterial membrane (visualized by cryo-transmission electron microscopy) followed by the diffusion of the cytoplasmic component out of the membrane which culminates in the final death of the bacterium.