2Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Institutskii Pereulok 9, 141700 Dolgoprudnyi, Moscow Region, Russia
3Higher School of Economics, Myasnitskaya ul. 20, 101000 Moscow, Russia
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received December 27, 2013; Revision received February 11, 2014
Polysialic acid (PSA) is a natural anionic polymer typically occurring on the outer surface of cell membranes. PSA is involved in cell signaling and intermolecular interactions with proteins and peptides. The antimicrobial potential of peptides is usually evaluated in model membranes consisting of lipid bilayers but devoid of either PSA or its analogs. The goal of this work was to investigate the possible effect of PSA on the structure of melittin (Mlt) and latarcins Ltc1K, Ltc2a, and the activity of these peptides with respect to model membranes. These peptides are linear cationic ones derived from the venom of bee (Mlt) and spider (both latarcins). The length of each of the peptides is 26 amino acid residues, and they all have antimicrobial activity. However, they differ with respect to conformational mobility, hydrophobic characteristics, and overall charge. In this work, using circular dichroism spectroscopy, we show that the peptides adopt an α-helical conformation upon interaction with either PSA or phospholipid liposomes formed of either zwitterionic or anionic phospholipids or their mixtures. The extent of helicity depends on the amino acid sequence and properties of the medium. Based on small angle X-ray scattering data and the analysis of the fluorescence spectrum of the Trp residue in Mlt, we conclude that the peptide forms an oligomeric complex consisting of α-helical Mlt and several PSA molecules. Both latarcins, unlike Mlt, the most hydrophobic of the peptides, interact weakly with zwitterionic liposomes. However, they bind anionic liposomes or those composed of anionic/zwitterionic lipid mixtures. Latarcin Ltc1K forms associates on liposomes composed of zwitterionic/anionic lipid mixture. The structure of the peptide associates is either disordered or of β-sheet conformation. In all other cases the studied peptides adopt predominately α-helical conformation. In addition, we demonstrate that PSA inhibits membranolytic activity of Mlt and latarcin Ltc1K. These data suggest that the peptides, due to their high conformational lability, can vary structural and amphiphilic properties in the presence of PSA. As a result, various scenarios of the interaction of the peptides with membranes, whose surface is abundant with anionic polysaccharides, can take place. This can account for difficulties in understanding the structure–functional relationships in interactions of linear cationic peptides with biological membranes.
KEY WORDS: linear cationic peptides, cytolytic peptides, latarcins, melittin, phospholipid liposomes, sialic acid, circular dichroism