Lipid Bilayer Composition Influences the Activity of the Antimicrobial Peptide Dermcidin Channel

Biophys J. 2019 May 7;116(9):1658-1666. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.03.033. Epub 2019 Apr 5.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) carry great potential as new antibiotics against "superbugs." Dermcidin (DCD), a broad-spectrum AMP in human sweat, has been recently crystallized in its oligomeric state and showed channel-like properties. In this work, we performed multiscale molecular dynamics simulations to study how the membrane composition influences the behavior of a transmembrane pore formed by the DCD oligomer in the hope of revealing the origin of the membrane selectivity of this AMP toward bacteria. Our results indicate that bilayers composed of various lipids (DMPC, DPPC, and DSPC) with different thicknesses result in different orientations of the DCD oligomer when embedded in lipid bilayers. The thicker the bilayer, the less tilted the channel. Cholesterol makes the bilayers more rigid and thicker, which also affects the orientation of the channel. Furthermore, we observed that the predicted conductance of the channel from computational electrophysiology simulations is related to its orientation in the lipid bilayer: the larger the tilt, the larger the conductance. Our results indicate that the membrane composition has a significant influence on the activity of the DCD channel, with thicker, cholesterol-rich membranes showing lower conductance than that of thinner membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Permeability
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Peptides
  • dermcidin