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The functional interaction between abaecin and pore-forming peptides indicates a general mechanism of antibacterial potentiation

: Rahnamaeian, M.; Cytrynska, M.; Zdybicka-Barabas, A.; Vilcinskas, A.

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Peptides 78 (2016), pp.17-23
ISSN: 0196-9781
ISSN: 1873-5169
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IME ()

Long-chain proline-rich antimicrobial peptides such as bumblebee abaecin show minimal activity against Gram-negative bacteria despite binding efficiently to specific intracellular targets. We recently reported that bumblebee abaecin interacts with Escherichia coli DnaK but shows negligible antibacterial activity unless it is combined with sublethal doses of the pore-forming peptide hymenoptaecin. These two bumblebee peptides are co-expressed in vivo in response to a bacterial challenge. Here we investigated whether abaecin interacts similarly with pore-forming peptides from other organisms by replacing hymenoptaecin with sublethal concentrations of cecropin A (0.3 mu M) or stomoxyn (0.05 mu M). We found that abaecin increased the membrane permeabilization effects of both peptides, confirming that it can reduce the minimal inhibitory concentrations of pore-forming peptides from other species. We also used atomic force microscopy to show that 20 mu M abaecin combined with sublethal concentrations of cecropin A or stomoxyn causes profound structural changes to the bacterial cell surface. Our data indicate that the potentiating functional interaction between abaecin and pore-forming peptides is not restricted to specific co-expressed peptides from the same species but is likely to be a general mechanism. Combination therapies based on diverse insect-derived peptides could therefore be used to tackle bacteria that are recalcitrant to current antibiotics.