Author(s): Teixeira V, Feio MJ, Bastos M
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Abstract Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) take part in the immune system by mounting a first line of defense against pathogens. Recurrent structural and functional aspects are observed among peptides from different sources, particularly the net cationicity and amphipathicity. However, the membrane seems to be the key determinant of their action, either as the main target of the peptide action or by forming a barrier that must be crossed by peptides to target core metabolic pathways. More importantly, the specificity exhibited by antimicrobial peptides relies on the different lipid composition between pathogen and host cells, likely contributing to their spectrum of activity. Several mechanisms of action have been reported, which may involve membrane permeabilization through the formation of pores, membrane thinning or micellization in a detergent-like way. AMPs may also target intracellular components, such as DNA, enzymes and even organelles. More recently, these peptides have been shown to produce membrane perturbation by formation of specific lipid-peptide domains, lateral phase segregation of zwitterionic from anionic phospholipids and even the formation of non-lamellar lipid phases. To countermeasure their activity, some pathogens were successful in developing effective mechanisms of resistance to decrease their susceptibility to AMPs. The functional and integral knowledge of such interactions and the clarification of the complex interplay between molecular determinants of peptides, the pathogen versus host cells dichotomy and the specific microenvironment in which all these elements convene will contribute to an understanding of some elusive aspects of their action and to rationally design novel therapeutic agents to overcome the current antibiotic resistance issue. Copyright Â© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Prog Lipid Res
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research