Structure-activity analysis of buforin II, a histone H2A-derived antimicrobial peptide: the proline hinge is responsible for the cell-penetrating ability of buforin II

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jul 18;97(15):8245-50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.150518097.


Buforin II is a 21-aa potent antimicrobial peptide that forms, in a hydrophobic medium, an amphipathic structure consisting of an N-terminal random coil region (residues 1-4), an extended helical region (residues 5-10), a hinge (residue 11), and a C-terminal regular alpha-helical region (residues 12-21). To elucidate the structural features of buforin II that are required for its potent antimicrobial activity, we synthesized a series of N- and C-terminally truncated or amino acid-substituted synthetic buforin II analogs and examined their antimicrobial activity and mechanism of action. Deletion of the N-terminal random coil region increased the antibacterial activity approximately 2-fold, but further N-terminal truncation yielded peptide analogs with progressively decreasing activity. Removal of four amino acids from the C-terminal end of buforin II resulted in a complete loss of antimicrobial activity. The substitution of leucine for the proline hinge decreased significantly the antimicrobial activity. Confocal fluorescence microscopic studies showed that buforin II analogs with a proline hinge penetrated the cell membrane without permeabilization and accumulated in the cytoplasm. However, removal of the proline hinge abrogated the ability of the peptide to enter cells, and buforin II analogs without a proline hinge localized on the cell surface, permeabilizing the cell membrane. In addition, the cell-penetrating efficiency of buforin II and its truncated analogs, which depended on the alpha-helical content of the peptides, correlated linearly with their antimicrobial potency. Our results demonstrate clearly that the proline hinge is responsible for the cell-penetrating ability of buforin II, and the cell-penetrating efficiency determines the antimicrobial potency of the peptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / pharmacology
  • Candida albicans / drug effects
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / pharmacology
  • Histones / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Peptides / physiology*
  • Proline / genetics
  • Proline / pharmacology
  • Proline / physiology*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / pharmacology
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Histones
  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • buforin II
  • Proline