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Amphiphilicity Is a Key Determinant in the Membrane Interactions of Synthetic 14-mer Cationic Peptide Analogues

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journal contribution
posted on 21.11.2016, 00:00 by Matthieu Fillion, Maxime Goudreault, Normand Voyer, Burkhard Bechinger, Michèle Auger
Cationic antimicrobial peptides are a component of the innate immune system of several organisms and represent an interesting alternative to fight multiresistant bacteria. In this context, we have elaborated a synthetic peptide scaffold allowing the study of the impact of different molecular determinants on the membrane interactions. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the mechanism of action of two cationic peptides that derive from a neutral 14-mer template peptide and where the hydrophilic portion is composed of a crown ether. The R5R10 peptide is active in the presence of both negatively charged and zwitterionic membranes (nonselective) and adopts an α-helical conformation, whereas the R4R11 peptide is more active in the presence of negatively charged membranes (selective) and forms intermolecular β-sheet structures. Both the membrane topology and the location of the peptides have been assessed using solid-state NMR and attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. In addition, fluorescence experiments have been performed on different membrane mixtures to evaluate the ability of the peptides to induce a positive curvature to the membrane. Overall, for both the R5R10 and R4R11 peptides, the results are consistent with a mechanism of action similar to the sinking-raft model in which the peptides are mainly lying flat on the membrane surface and impose a bending stress to the membrane, thus leading to the formation of pores. Furthermore, the difference of membrane selectivity between R5R10 and R4R11 peptides is due to their differing amphipathic properties which modulate the membrane activity on zwitterionic model membranes.