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Bacterial Aggregation Triggered by Fibril Forming Tryptophan-Rich Sequences: Effects of Peptide Side Chain and Membrane Phospholipids

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journal contribution
posted on 05.06.2020 by Mojtaba Bagheri, Heike Nikolenko, Shima Arasteh, Nakisa Rezaei, Malihe Behzadi, Margitta Dathe, Robert E. W. Hancock
The influence of side chain residue and phospholipid characteristics of the cytoplasmic membrane upon the fibrillation and bacterial aggregation of arginine (Arg) and tryptophan (Trp) rich antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) has not been well described to date. Here, we utilized the structural advantages of HHC-10 and 4HarHHC-10 (Har, l-homoarginine) that are highly active Trp-rich AMPs and investigated their fibril formation and activity behavior against bacteria. The peptides revealed time-dependent self-assembly of polyproline II (PPII) α-helices, but by comparison, 4HarHHC-10 tended to form higher ordered fibrils due to relatively strong cation−π stacking of Trp with Har residue. Both peptides rapidly killed S. aureus and E. coli at their MICs and caused aggregation of bacteria at higher concentrations. This bacterial aggregation was accompanied by the formation of morphologically distinct electron-dense nanostructures, likely including but not limited to peptides alone. Both HHC-10-derived peptides caused blebs and buds in the E. coli membrane that are rich in POPE phospholipid that promotes negative curvature. However, the main population of S. aureus cells retained their cocci structure upon treatment with HHC peptides even at concentration higher than the MICs. In contrast, the cell aggregation was not induced by HHC fibrils that were most likely stabilized through intra-/intermolecular cation−π stacking. It is proposed that masking of these interactions might have resulted in diminished membrane association/insertion of the HHC nanostructures. The peptides caused aggregation of POPC/POPG (1/3) and POPE/POPG (3/1) liposomes. Nonetheless, disaggregation of the former vesicles was observed at ratios of lipid to peptide of greater than 6 and 24 for HHC-10 and 4HarHHC-10, respectively. Collectively, our results revealed dose-dependent bacterial aggregation mediated by Trp-rich AMPs that was profoundly influenced by the degree of peptide’s self-association and the composition and intrinsic curvature of the cytoplasmic membrane lipids.