The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria has become a serious public-health concern, and, accordingly, scientists are investigating new classes of antimicrobials for their efficacy against disease-causing bacteria. One developing area of study involves antimicrobial peptides derived from insects. Recent studies have identified the protein target in bacteria of these antimicrobial peptides and suggested that the peptides are not toxic to mammalian cells including those of humans, raising the possibility that they could someday be used to develop new antibiotic drugs.
Now, in a new study of an insect-derived antimicrobial peptide called pyrrhocoricin, scientists at The Wistar Institute have identified which segments of the peptide are necessary for the killing of bacteria and which segments are involved in bacterial and mammalian cell entry. The Wistar scientists further confirmed that this antimicrobial peptide must bind to the previously identified intracellular bacterial protein target in order to kill bacteria. The research team also identified a possible binding site for the antimicrobial peptide on the target bacterial protein for the first time.
Because the stretches of the peptide that are responsible for cell entry are separate from the segments responsible for bacteria killing, the research team says that it might be possible to use an altered version of the peptide as a delivery vehicle for a variety of drugs into human cells, rather than solely as an antimicrobial. The results are published online today in the European Journal of Biochemistry.
Marion Wyce | EurekAlert!
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