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  1. Cerbino, Roberto (Ed.)

    This research addresses the growing menace of antibiotic resistance by exploring antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as alternatives to conventional antibiotics.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 22, 2025
  2. Lu, Hua (Ed.)
    SPLUNC1 (short palate lung and nasal epithelial clone 1) is a multifunctional host defense protein found in human respiratory tract with antimicrobial properties. In this work we compare the biological activities of four SPLUNC1 antimicrobial peptide (AMP) derivatives using paired clinical isolates of the Gram-negative (G(-)) bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae, obtained from eleven patients with/without colistin resistance. Secondary structural studies were carried out to study interactions between the AMPs and lipid model membranes (LMMs) utilizing circular dichroism (CD). Two peptides were further characterized using x-ray diffuse scattering (XDS) and neutron reflectivity (NR). A4-153 displayed superior antibacterial activity in both G(-) planktonic cultures and biofilms. NR and XDS revealed that A4-153 (highest activity) is located primarily in membrane headgroups, while A4-198 (lowest activity) is located in hydrophobic region. CD revealed that A4-153 is helical while A4-198 has little helical character, demonstrating that helicity and efficacy are correlated in these SPLUNC1 AMPs. 
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  3. Supramolecular interactions are well recognized and many of them have been extensively studied in chemistry. The formation of supramolecular complexes that rely on weak force interactions are less well studied in bilayer membranes. Herein, a supported bilayer membrane is used to probe the penetration of a complex between tetracycline and a macrocyclic polyether. In a number of bacterial systems, the presence of the macrocycle has been found to significantly enhance the potency of the antimicrobial in vitro . The crown·tetracycline complex has been characterized in solution, neutron reflectometry has probed complex penetration, and the phenomena have been modeled by computational methods. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract In the search for novel broad-spectrum therapeutics to fight chronic infections, inflammation, and cancer, host defense peptides (HDPs) have garnered increasing interest. Characterizing their biologically-active conformations and minimum motifs for function represents a requisite step to developing them into efficacious and safe therapeutics. Here, we demonstrate that metallating HDPs with Cu 2+ is an effective chemical strategy to improve their cytotoxicity on cancer cells. Mechanistically, we find that prepared as Cu 2+ -complexes, the peptides not only physically but also chemically damage lipid membranes. Our testing ground features piscidins 1 and 3 (P1/3), two amphipathic, histidine-rich, membrane-interacting, and cell-penetrating HDPs that are α-helical bound to membranes. To investigate their membrane location, permeabilization effects, and lipid-oxidation capability, we employ neutron reflectometry, impedance spectroscopy, neutron diffraction, and UV spectroscopy. While P1-apo is more potent than P3-apo, metallation boosts their cytotoxicities by up to two- and seven-fold, respectively. Remarkably, P3-Cu 2+ is particularly effective at inserting in bilayers, causing water crevices in the hydrocarbon region and placing Cu 2+ near the double bonds of the acyl chains, as needed to oxidize them. This study points at a new paradigm where complexing HDPs with Cu 2+ to expand their mechanistic reach could be explored to design more potent peptide-based anticancer therapeutics. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    We report on the permeation of free and macrocycle-bound avobenzone across a POPC lipid bilayer through combined neutron reflectometry experiments and molecular dynamics simulations. Results indicate that the p -phosphonated calix[8]arene macrocycle limits the avobenzone penetration into the upper leaflet of the membrane. Hence, it could serve as a useful vehicle for safer formulations. 
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  6. Antibiotics are losing effectiveness as bacteria become resistant to conventional drugs. To find new alternatives, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are rationally designed with different lengths, charges, hydrophobicities (H), and hydrophobic moments (μH), containing only three types of amino acids: arginine, tryptophan, and valine. Six AMPs with low minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) and <25% toxicity to mammalian cells are selected for biophysical studies. Their secondary structures are determined using circular dichroism (CD), which finds that the % α‐helicity of AMPs depends on composition of the lipid model membranes (LMMs): gram‐negative (G(−)) inner membrane (IM) >gram‐positive (G(+))> Euk33 (eukaryotic with 33 mol% cholesterol). The two most effective peptides, E2‐35 (16 amino acid [AA] residues) and E2‐05 (22 AAs), are predominantly helical in G(–) IM and G(+) LMMs. AMP/membrane interactions such as membrane elasticity, chain order parameter, and location of the peptides in the membrane are investigated by low‐angle and wide‐angle X‐ray diffuse scattering (XDS). It is found that headgroup location correlates with efficacy and toxicity. The membrane bending modulusKCdisplays nonmonotonic changes due to increasing concentrations of E2‐35 and E2‐05 in G(–) and G(+) LMMs, suggesting a bacterial killing mechanism where domain formation causes ion and water leakage.

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  7. The small GTPase KRAS is localized at the plasma membrane where it functions as a molecular switch, coupling extracellular growth factor stimulation to intracellular signaling networks. In this process, KRAS recruits effectors, such as RAF kinase, to the plasma membrane where they are activated by a series of complex molecular steps. Defining the membrane-bound state of KRAS is fundamental to understanding the activation of RAF kinase and in evaluating novel therapeutic opportunities for the inhibition of oncogenic KRAS-mediated signaling. We combined multiple biophysical measurements and computational methodologies to generate a consensus model for authentically processed, membrane-anchored KRAS. In contrast to the two membrane-proximal conformations previously reported, we identify a third significantly populated state using a combination of neutron reflectivity, fast photochemical oxidation of proteins (FPOP), and NMR. In this highly populated state, which we refer to as “membrane-distal” and estimate to comprise ∼90% of the ensemble, the G-domain does not directly contact the membrane but is tethered via its C-terminal hypervariable region and carboxymethylated farnesyl moiety, as shown by FPOP. Subsequent interaction of the RAF1 RAS binding domain with KRAS does not significantly change G-domain configurations on the membrane but affects their relative populations. Overall, our results are consistent with a directional fly-casting mechanism for KRAS, in which the membrane-distal state of the G-domain can effectively recruit RAF kinase from the cytoplasm for activation at the membrane.

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