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  1. 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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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  2. The threat of antibiotic resistance warrants the discovery of agents with novel antimicrobial mechanisms. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) directly disrupting bacterial membranes may overcome resistance to traditional antibiotics. AMP development for clinical use has been mostly limited to topical application to date. We developed a rational framework for systematically addressing this challenge using libraries composed of 86 novel Trp- and Arg-rich engineered peptides tested against clinical strains of the most common multidrug-resistant bacteria known as ESKAPE pathogens. Structure-function correlations revealed minimum lengths (as low as 16 residues) and Trp positioning for maximum antibacterial potency with mean minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 2–4 μM and corresponding negligible toxicity to mammalian cells. Twelve peptides were selected based on broad-spectrum activity against both gram-negative and -positive bacteria and <25% toxicity to mammalian cells at maximum test concentrations. Most of the selected PAX remained active against the colistin-resistant clinical strains. Of the selected peptides, the shortest (the 16-residue E35) was further investigated for antibacterial mechanism and proof-of-concept in vivo efficacy. E35 killed an extensively-resistant isolate of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA239 from the CDC, also resistant to colistin) by irreversibly disrupting the cell membranes as shown by propidium iodide incorporation, using flow cytometry and live cell imaging. As proof of concept, in vivo toxicity studies showed that mice tolerated a systemic dose of up to 30 mg/kg peptide and were protected with a single 5 mg/kg intravenous (IV) dose against an otherwise lethal intraperitoneal injection of PA239. Efficacy was also demonstrated in an immune-compromised Klebsiella pneumoniae infection model using a daily dose of 4mg/kg E35 systemically for 2 days. This framework defines the determinants of efficacy of helical AMPs composed of only cationic and hydrophobic amino acids and provides a path for a potential departure from the restriction to topical use of AMPs toward systemic application. 
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  3. Abstract

    A new class of conjugated macrocycle, the cyclo[4]thiophene[4]furan hexyl ester (C4TE4FE), is reported. This cycle consists of alternating α‐linked thiophene‐3‐ester and furan‐3‐ester repeat units, and was prepared in a single step using Suzuki–Miyaura cross‐coupling of a 2‐(thiophen‐2‐yl)furan monomer. The ester side groups help promote asynconformation of the heterocycles, which enables formation of the macrocycle. Cyclic voltammetry studies revealed that C4TE4FE could undergo multiple oxidations, so treatment with SbCl5resulted in formation of the [C4TE4FE]2+dication. Computational work, paired with1H NMR spectroscopy of the dication, revealed that the cycle becomes globally aromatic upon 2eoxidation, as the annulene pathway along the outer ring becomes Hückel aromatic. The change in ring current for the cycle upon oxidation was clear from1H NMR spectroscopy, as the protons of the thiophene and furan rings shifted downfield by nearly 6 ppm. This work highlights the potential of sequence control in furan‐based macrocycles to tune electronic properties.

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  4. 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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