Author(s): Trabi M, Schirra HJ, Craik DJ
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Abstract Most mammalian defensins are cationic peptides of 29-42 amino acids long, stabilized by three disulfide bonds. However, recently Tang et al. (1999, Science 286, 498-502) reported the isolation of a new defensin type found in the leukocytes of rhesus macaques. In contrast to all the other defensins found so far, rhesus theta defensin-1 (RTD-1) is composed of just 18 amino acids with the backbone cyclized through peptide bonds. Antibacterial activities of both the native cyclic peptide and a linear form were examined, showing that the cyclic form was 3-fold more active than the open chain analogue [Tang et al. (1999) Science 286, 498-502]. To elucidate the three-dimensional structure of RTD-1 and its open chain analogue, both peptides were synthesized using solid-phase peptide synthesis and tert-butyloxycarbonyl chemistry. The structures of both peptides in aqueous solution were determined from two-dimensional (1)H NMR data recorded at 500 and 750 MHz. Structural constraints consisting of interproton distances and dihedral angles were used as input for simulated-annealing calculations and water refinement with the program CNS. RTD-1 and its open chain analogue oRTD-1 adopt very similar structures in water. Both comprise an extended beta-hairpin structure with turns at one or both ends. The turns are well defined within themselves and seem to be flexible with respect to the extended regions of the molecules. Although the two strands of the beta-sheet are connected by three disulfide bonds, this region displays a degree of flexibility. The structural similarity of RTD-1 and its open chain analogue oRTD-1, as well as their comparable degree of flexibility, support the theory that the additional charges at the termini of the open chain analogue rather than overall differences in structure or flexibility are the cause for oRTD-1's lower antimicrobial activity. In contrast to numerous other antimicrobial peptides, RTD-1 does not display any amphiphilic character, even though surface models of RTD-1 exhibit a certain clustering of positive charges. Some amide protons of RTD-1 that should be solvent-exposed in monomeric beta-sheet structures show low-temperature coefficients, suggesting the possible presence of weak intermolecular hydrogen bonds.
This article was published in Biochemistry
and referenced in Journal of Bioanalysis & Biomedicine