Many organisms rely on antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as a first line of defense against pathogens. In general, most AMPs are thought to kill bacteria by binding to and disrupting cell membranes. However, certain AMPs instead appear to inhibit biomacromolecule synthesis, while causing less membrane damage. Despite an unclear understanding of mechanism(s), there is considerable interest in mimicking AMPs with stable, synthetic molecules. Antimicrobial N-substituted glycine (peptoid) oligomers (“ampetoids”) are structural, functional and mechanistic analogs of helical, cationic AMPs, which offer broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and better therapeutic potential than peptides. Here, we show through quantitative studies of membrane permeabilization, electron microscopy, and soft X-ray tomography that both AMPs and ampetoids trigger extensive and rapid non-specific aggregation of intracellular biomacromolecules that correlates with microbial death. We present data demonstrating that ampetoids are “fast killers”, which rapidly aggregate bacterial ribosomes in vitro and in vivo. We suggest intracellular biomass flocculation is a key mechanism of killing for cationic, amphipathic AMPs, which may explain why most AMPs require micromolar concentrations for activity, show significant selectivity for killing bacteria over mammalian cells, and finally, why development of resistance to AMPs is less prevalent than developed resistance to conventional antibiotics.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 1, 2017
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