Antibiotic development challenges: the various mechanisms of action of antimicrobial peptides and of bacterial resistance

Front Microbiol. 2013 Dec 9;4:353. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00353.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are natural antibiotics produced by various organisms such as mammals, arthropods, plants, and bacteria. In addition to antimicrobial activity, AMPs can induce chemokine production, accelerate angiogenesis, and wound healing and modulate apoptosis in multicellular organisms. Originally, their antimicrobial mechanism of action was thought to consist solely of an increase in pathogen cell membrane permeability, but it has already been shown that several AMPs do not modulate membrane permeability in the minimal lethal concentration. Instead, they exert their effects by inhibiting processes such as protein and cell wall synthesis, as well as enzyme activity, among others. Although resistance to these molecules is uncommon several pathogens developed different strategies to overcome AMPs killing such as surface modification, expression of efflux pumps, and secretion of proteases among others. This review describes the various mechanisms of action of AMPs and how pathogens evolve resistance to them.

Keywords: antimicrobial peptides; bacterial; mechanism of action; mechanism of resistance; membrane permeability and intracellular targets.

Publication types

  • Review