Effects of net charge and the number of positively charged residues on the biological activity of amphipathic alpha-helical cationic antimicrobial peptides

Biopolymers. 2008;90(3):369-83. doi: 10.1002/bip.20911.


In our previous study, we utilized a 26-residue amphipathic alpha-helical antimicrobial peptide L-V13K (Chen et al., Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2007, 51, 1398-1406) as the framework to study the effects of peptide hydrophobicity on the mechanism of its antimicrobial action. In this study, we explored the effects of net charge and the number of positively charged residues on the hydrophilic/polar face of L-V13K on its biological activity (antimicrobial and hemolytic) and biophysical properties (hydrophobicity, amphipathicity, helicity, and peptide self-association). The net charge of V13K analogs at pH 7 varied between -5 and +10 and the number of positively charged residues varied from 1 to 10. The minimal inhibitory concentrations (MIC) against six strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa as well as other gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria were determined along with the maximal peptide concentration that produces no hemolysis of human red blood cells (MHC). Our results show that the number of positively charged residues on the polar face and net charge are both important for both antimicrobial activity and hemolytic activity. The most dramatic observation is the sharp transition of hemolytic activity on increasing one positive charge on the polar face of V13K i.e., the change from +8 to +9 resulted in greater than 32-fold increase in hemolytic activity (250 microg/ml to <7.8 microg/ml, respectively).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Infective Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / isolation & purification
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Temperature


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides