Membrane-Active Peptides and the Clustering of Anionic Lipids
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There is some overlap in the biological activities of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). We compared nine AMPs, seven CPPs, and a fusion peptide with regard to their ability to cluster anionic lipids in a mixture mimicking the cytoplasmic membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, as measured by differential scanning calorimetry. We also studied their bacteriostatic effect on several bacterial strains, and examined their conformational changes upon membrane binding using circular dichroism. A remarkable correlation was found between the net positive charge of the peptides and their capacity to induce anionic lipid clustering, which was independent of their secondary structure. Among the peptides studied, six AMPs and four CPPs were found to have strong anionic lipid clustering activity. These peptides also had bacteriostatic activity against several strains (particularly Gram-negative Escherichia coli) that are sensitive to lipid clustering agents. AMPs and CPPs that did not cluster anionic lipids were not toxic to E. coli. As shown previously for several types of AMPs, anionic lipid clustering likely contributes to the mechanism of antibacterial action of highly cationic CPPs. The same mechanism could explain the escape of CPPs from intracellular endosomes that are enriched with anionic lipids.
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