Protegrin antimicrobial peptides possess activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and yeasts. An extensive structure-activity relationship (SAR) study was conducted on several hundred protegrin analogues to gain understanding of the relationship between the primary and secondary structure of the protegrins and their antimicrobial activities, and to identify a protegrin analogue for clinical development. Native sequence protegrins are cationic, amphiphilic peptides that are characterized by the presence of a beta-sheet structure that is maintained by two disulfide bridges. The presence of the beta-sheet is key to the stability of the protegrin structure; linearized analogues or analogues that have amino acid substitutions that eliminate hydrogen bonding across the beta-sheet have reduced activity, especially in the presence of physiological concentrations of NaCl. Also, maintaining amphiphilicity of the beta-sheet is key; analogues with substitutions of polar amino acids in the hydrophobic face have reduced activity. Analogues with reduced positive charge tend to be less active, an observation that is more marked for gram-negative than gram-positive bacteria, and may implicate binding to lipopolysaccharide as a key mechanistic step in the killing of gram-negative bacteria. A very large number of amino acid substitutions are tolerated by the protegrin structure, implying that overall structural features such as amphiphilicity, charge, and shape are more important to activity than the presence of specific amino acids. This lack of importance of specific stereochemistry is supported by the fact that completely D-amino acid substituted protegrins are fully potent. Based on the SAR studies, and on the microbiological data from an animal model, one protegrin analogue, IB-367, was selected for clinical development as a topical agent to prevent the oral mucositis associated with cancer therapy.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.