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Acc Chem Res 2019 Mar 19;523:749-759. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00624.
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Very Short and Stable Lactoferricin-Derived Antimicrobial Peptides: Design Principles and Potential Uses.

Svendsen JSM , Grant TM , Rennison D , Brimble MA , Svenson J .

The alarming rate at which micro-organisms are developing resistance to conventional antibiotics represents one of the global challenges of our time. There is currently ample space in the antibacterial drug pipeline, and scientists are trying to find innovative and novel strategies to target the microbial enemies. Nature has remained a source of inspiration for most of the antibiotics developed and used, and the immune molecules produced by the innate defense systems, as a first line of defense, have been heralded as the next source of antibiotics. Most living organisms produce an arsenal of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) to rapidly fend off intruding pathogens, and several different attempts have been made to transform this versatile group of compounds into the next generation of antibiotics. However, faced with the many hurdles of using peptides as drugs, the success of these defense molecules as therapeutics remains to be realized. AMPs derived from the proteolytic degradation of the innate defense protein lactoferrin have been shown to display several favorable antimicrobial properties. In an attempt to investigate the biological and pharmacological properties of these much shorter AMPs, the sequence dependence was investigated, and it was shown, through a series of truncation experiments, that these AMPs in fact can be prepared as tripeptides, with improved antimicrobial activity, via the incorporation of unnatural hydrophobic residues and terminal cappings. In this Account, we describe how this class of promising cationic tripeptides has been developed to specifically address the main challenges limiting the general use of AMPs. This has been made possible through the identification of the antibacterial pharmacophore and via the incorporation of a range of unnatural hydrophobic and cationic amino acids. Incorporation of these residues at selected positions has allowed us to extensively establish how these compounds interact with the major proteolytic enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin and also the two major drug-binding plasma proteins serum albumin and α-1 glycoprotein. Several of the challenges associated with using AMPs relate to their size, susceptibility to rapid proteolytic degradation, and poor oral bioavailability. Our studies have addressed these issues in detail, and the results have allowed us to effectively design and prepare active and metabolically stable AMPs that have been evaluated in a range of functional settings. The optimized short AMPs display inhibitory activities against a plethora of micro-organisms at low micromolar concentrations, and they have been shown to target resistant strains of both bacteria and fungi alike with a very rapid mode of action. Our Account further describes how these compounds behave in in vivo experiments and highlights both the challenges and possibilities of the intriguing compounds. In several areas, they have been shown to exhibit comparable or superior activity to established antibacterial, antifungal, and antifouling commercial products. This illustrates their ability to effectively target and eradicate various microbes in a variety of settings ranging from the ocean to the clinic.

PubMed ID: 30829472
Article link: Acc Chem Res

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: prss1 tf