Discovery of antimicrobial peptides in the global microbiome with machine learning

Cell. 2024 May 30:S0092-8674(24)00522-1. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2024.05.013. Online ahead of print.


Novel antibiotics are urgently needed to combat the antibiotic-resistance crisis. We present a machine-learning-based approach to predict antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) within the global microbiome and leverage a vast dataset of 63,410 metagenomes and 87,920 prokaryotic genomes from environmental and host-associated habitats to create the AMPSphere, a comprehensive catalog comprising 863,498 non-redundant peptides, few of which match existing databases. AMPSphere provides insights into the evolutionary origins of peptides, including by duplication or gene truncation of longer sequences, and we observed that AMP production varies by habitat. To validate our predictions, we synthesized and tested 100 AMPs against clinically relevant drug-resistant pathogens and human gut commensals both in vitro and in vivo. A total of 79 peptides were active, with 63 targeting pathogens. These active AMPs exhibited antibacterial activity by disrupting bacterial membranes. In conclusion, our approach identified nearly one million prokaryotic AMP sequences, an open-access resource for antibiotic discovery.

Keywords: antibiotic discovery; antibiotic resistance; antimicrobial activity; antimicrobial peptides; global microbiome; machine learning; metagenomics.