Deep mutational scanning and machine learning uncover antimicrobial peptide features driving membrane selectivity

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Sep 10:2023.07.28.551017. doi: 10.1101/2023.07.28.551017.


Antimicrobial peptides commonly act by disrupting bacterial membranes, but also frequently damage mammalian membranes. Deciphering the rules governing membrane selectivity is critical to understanding their function and enabling their therapeutic use. Past attempts to decipher these rules have failed because they cannot interrogate adequate peptide sequence variation. To overcome this problem, we develop deep mutational surface localized antimicrobial display (dmSLAY), which reveals comprehensive positional residue importance and flexibility across an antimicrobial peptide sequence. We apply dmSLAY to Protegrin-1, a potent yet toxic antimicrobial peptide, and identify thousands of sequence variants that positively or negatively influence its antibacterial activity. Further analysis reveals that avoiding large aromatic residues and eliminating disulfide bound cysteine pairs while maintaining membrane bound secondary structure greatly improves Protegrin-1 bacterial specificity. Moreover, dmSLAY datasets enable machine learning to expand our analysis to include over 5.7 million sequence variants and reveal full Protegrin-1 mutational profiles driving either bacterial or mammalian membrane specificity. Our results describe an innovative, high-throughput approach for elucidating antimicrobial peptide sequence-structure-function relationships which can inform synthetic peptide-based drug design.

Publication types

  • Preprint