Antimicrobial peptides in toroidal and cylindrical pores

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Aug;1798(8):1485-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 Apr 18.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small, usually cationic peptides, which permeabilize biological membranes. Their mechanism of action is still not well understood. Here we investigate the preference of alamethicin and melittin for pores of different shapes, using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the peptides in pre-formed toroidal and cylindrical pores. When an alamethicin hexamer is initially embedded in a cylindrical pore, at the end of the simulation the pore remains cylindrical or closes if glutamines in the N-termini are not located within the pore. On the other hand, when a melittin tetramer is embedded in toroidal pore or in a cylindrical pore, at the end of the simulation the pore is lined both with peptides and lipid headgroups, and, thus, can be classified as a toroidal pore. These observations agree with the prevailing views that alamethicin forms barrel-stave pores whereas melittin forms toroidal pores. Both alamethicin and melittin form amphiphilic helices in the presence of membranes, but their net charge differs; at pH approximately 7, the net charge of alamethicin is -1 whereas that of melittin is +5. This gives rise to stronger electrostatic interactions of melittin with membranes than those of alamethicin. The melittin tetramer interacts more strongly with lipids in the toroidal pore than in the cylindrical one, due to more favorable electrostatic interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alamethicin / chemistry
  • Alamethicin / metabolism
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Melitten / chemistry
  • Melitten / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Static Electricity


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Melitten
  • Alamethicin