Differential Interactions of Piscidins with Phospholipids and Lipopolysaccharides at Membrane Interfaces

Langmuir. 2020 May 12;36(18):5065-5077. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.0c00017. Epub 2020 May 1.


Piscidins 1 and 3 (P1 and P3) are potent antimicrobial peptides isolated from striped bass. Their mechanism of action involves formation of amphipathic α-helices on contact with phospholipids and destabilization of the microbial cytoplasmic membrane. The peptides are active against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, suggesting easy passage across the outer membrane. Here, we performed a comparative study of these two piscidins at the air-water interface on lipopolysaccharide (LPS) monolayers modeling the outer bacterial surface of Gram-negative organisms and on phospholipid monolayers, which mimic the inner membrane. The results show that P1 and P3 are highly surface active (log KAW ∼ 6.8) and have similar affinities to phospholipid monolayers (log Klip ≈ 7.7). P1, which is more potent against Gram negatives, exhibits a much stronger partitioning into LPS monolayers (log KLPS = 8.3). Pressure-area isotherms indicate that under increasing lateral pressures, inserted P1 repartitions from phospholipid monolayers back to the subphase or to a more shallow position with in-plane areas of ∼170 Å2 per peptide, corresponding to fully folded amphipathic α-helices. In contrast, peptide expulsion from LPS occurs with areas of ∼35 Å2, suggesting that the peptides may not form the similarly oriented, rigid secondary structures when they avidly intercalate between LPS molecules. Patch-clamp experiments on Escherichia coli spheroplasts show that when P1 and P3 reach the outer surface of the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane, they produce fluctuating conductive structures at voltages above 80 mV. The data suggests that the strong activity of these piscidins against Gram-negative bacteria begins with the preferential accumulation of peptides in the outer LPS layer followed by penetration into the periplasm, where they form stable amphipathic α-helices upon contact with phospholipids and attack the energized inner membrane.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cell Membrane
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria
  • Lipopolysaccharides*
  • Phospholipids*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Phospholipids