Molecular hybridization strategy for tuning bioactive peptide function

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The physicochemical and structural properties of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) determine their mechanism of action and biological function. However, the development of AMPs as therapeutic drugs has been traditionally limited by their toxicity for human cells. Tuning the physicochemical properties of such molecules may abolish toxicity and yield synthetic molecules displaying optimal safety profiles and enhanced antimicrobial activity. Here, natural peptides were modified to improve their activity by the hybridization of sequences from two different active peptide sequences. Hybrid AMPs (hAMPs) were generated by combining the amphipathic faces of the highly toxic peptide VmCT1, derived from scorpion venom, with parts of four other naturally occurring peptides having high antimicrobial activity and low toxicity against human cells. This strategy led to the design of seven synthetic bioactive variants, all of which preserved their structure and presented increased antimicrobial activity (3.1–128 μmol L−1). Five of the peptides (three being hAMPs) presented high antiplasmodial at 0.8 μmol L−1, and virtually no undesired toxic effects against red blood cells. In sum, we demonstrate that peptide hybridization is an effective strategy for redirecting biological activity to generate novel bioactive molecules with desired properties.
Pedron CN, Torres MDT, Oliveira CS, Silva Junior PI. Molecular hybridization strategy for tuning bioactive peptide function. Commun Biol. 2023 Oct; 6:1067. doi:10.1038/s42003-023-05254-7.
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