Biochemical and biophysical combined study of bicarinalin, an ant venom antimicrobial peptide

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Abstract

We have recently characterized bicarinalin as the most abundant peptide from the venom of the ant Tetramorium bicarinatum. This antimicrobial peptide is active against Staphylococcus and Enterobacteriaceae. To further investigate the antimicrobial properties of this cationic and cysteine-free peptide, we have studied its antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activities on a large array of microorganisms. Bicarinalin was active against fifteen microorganisms with minimal inhibitory concentrations ranging from 2 and 25 μmol L−1. Cronobacter sakazakii, Salmonella enterica, Candida albicans, Aspergilus niger and Saccharomyces cerevisiae were particularly susceptible to this novel antimicrobial peptide. Resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and C. albicans were as susceptible as the canonical strains. Interestingly, bicarinalin was also active against the parasite Leishmania infantum with a minimal inhibitory concentrations of 2 μmol L−1. The bicarinalin pre-propeptide cDNA sequence has been determined using a combination of degenerated primers with RACE PCR strategy. Interestingly, the N-terminal domain of bicarinalin pre-propeptide exhibited sequence similarity with the pilosulin antimicrobial peptide family previously described in the Myrmecia venoms. Moreover, using SYTOX green uptake assay, we showed that, for all the tested microorganisms, bicarinalin acted through a membrane permeabilization mechanism. Two dimensional-NMR experiments showed that bicarinalin displayed a 10 residue-long α-helical structure flanked by two N- and C-terminal disordered regions. This partially amphipathic helix may explain the membrane permeabilization mechanism of bicarinalin observed in this study. Finally, therapeutic value of bicarinalin was highlighted by its low cytotoxicity against human lymphocytes at bactericidal concentrations and its long half-life in human serum which was around 15 h.

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