Natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are gene-coded defense molecules discovered in all the three life domains: Eubacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. The latter covers protists, fungi, plants, and animals. It is now recognized that amino acid composition, peptide sequence, and post-translational modifications determine to a large extent the structure and function of AMPs. This article systematically describes post-translational modifications of natural AMPs annotated in the antimicrobial peptide database (http://aps.unmc.edu/AP). Currently, 1147 out of 1755 AMPs in the database are modified and classified into more than 17 types. Through chemical modifications, the peptides fold into a variety of structural scaffolds that target bacterial surfaces or molecules within cells. Chemical modifications also confer desired functions to a particular peptide. Meanwhile, these modifications modulate other peptide properties such as stability. Elucidation of the relationship between AMP property and chemical modification inspires peptide engineering. Depending on the objective of our design, peptides may be modified in various ways so that the desired features can be enhanced whereas unwanted properties can be minimized. Therefore, peptide design plays an essential role in developing natural AMPs into a new generation of therapeutic molecules.
Keywords: Chemical modification; database; peptide engineering; peptide selectivity; peptide stability; structural diversity.