Effects of rationally designed physico-chemical variants of the peptide puroa on biocidal activity towards bacterial and mammalian cells

Nadin Shagaghi, Andrew H.A. Clayton, Marie-Isabel Aguilar, Tzong-Hsien Lee, Enzo A. Palombo, Mrinal Bhave

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Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) often exhibit wide-spectrum activities and are considered ideal candidates for effectively controlling persistent and multidrug-resistant wound infections. PuroA, a synthetic peptide based on the tryptophan (Trp)-rich domain of the wheat protein puroindoline A, displays strong antimicrobial activities. In this work, a number of peptides were designed based on PuroA, varying in physico-chemical parameters of length, number of Trp residues, net charge, hydrophobicity or amphipathicity, D-versus L-isomers of amino acids, cyclization or dimerization, and were tested for antimicrobial potency and salt and protease tolerance. Selected peptides were assessed for effects on biofilms of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and selected mammalian cells. Peptide P1, with the highest amphipathicity, six Trp and a net charge of +7, showed strong antimicrobial activity and salt stability. Peptides W7, W8 and WW (seven to eight residues) were generally more active than PuroA and all diastereomers were protease-resistant. PuroA and certain variants significantly inhibited initial biomass attachment and eradicated preformed biofilms of MRSA. Further, P1 and dimeric PuroA were cytotoxic to HeLa cells. The work has led to peptides with biocidal effects on common human pathogens and/or anticancer potential, also offering great insights into the relationship between physico-chemical parameters and bioactivities, accelerating progress towards rational design of AMPs for therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8624
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020


  • Anticancer peptides
  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Cationic peptides
  • Puroindoline A
  • Tryptophan rich peptides

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