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Structural and antimicrobial properties of human pre-elafin/trappin-2 and derived peptides against Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Author(s): Bellemare Audrey | Vernoux Nathalie | Morin Sébastien | Gagné Stéphane | Bourbonnais Yves

Journal: BMC Microbiology
ISSN 1471-2180

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 253;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Pre-elafin/trappin-2 is a human innate defense molecule initially described as a potent inhibitor of neutrophil elastase. The full-length protein as well as the N-terminal "cementoin" and C-terminal "elafin" domains were also shown to possess broad antimicrobial activity, namely against the opportunistic pathogen P. aeruginosa. The mode of action of these peptides has, however, yet to be fully elucidated. Both domains of pre-elafin/trappin-2 are polycationic, but only the structure of the elafin domain is currently known. The aim of the present study was to determine the secondary structures of the cementoin domain and to characterize the antibacterial properties of these peptides against P. aeruginosa. Results We show here that the cementoin domain adopts an α-helical conformation both by circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance analyses in the presence of membrane mimetics, a characteristic shared with a large number of linear polycationic antimicrobial peptides. However, pre-elafin/trappin-2 and its domains display only weak lytic properties, as assessed by scanning electron micrography, outer and inner membrane depolarization studies with P. aeruginosa and leakage of liposome-entrapped calcein. Confocal microscopy of fluorescein-labeled pre-elafin/trappin-2 suggests that this protein possesses the ability to translocate across membranes. This correlates with the finding that pre-elafin/trappin-2 and elafin bind to DNA in vitro and attenuate the expression of some P. aeruginosa virulence factors, namely the biofilm formation and the secretion of pyoverdine. Conclusions The N-terminal cementoin domain adopts α-helical secondary structures in a membrane mimetic environment, which is common in antimicrobial peptides. However, unlike numerous linear polycationic antimicrobial peptides, membrane disruption does not appear to be the main function of either cementoin, elafin or full-length pre-elafin/trappin-2 against P. aeruginosa. Our results rather suggest that pre-elafin/trappin-2 and elafin, but not cementoin, possess the ability to modulate the expression of some P.aeruginosa virulence factors, possibly through acting on intracellular targets.
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