Antimicrobial protegrin-1 forms amyloid-like fibrils with rapid kinetics suggesting a functional link

Hyunbum Jang, Fernando Teran Arce, Mirela Mustata, Srinivasan Ramachandran, Ricardo Capone, Ruth Nussinov*, Ratnesh Lal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protegrin-1 (PG-1) is an 18 residues long, cysteine-rich βsheet antimicrobial peptide (AMP). PG-1 induces strong cytotoxic activities on cell membrane and acts as a potent antibiotic agent. Earlier we reported that its cytotoxicity is mediated by its channel-forming ability. In this study, we have examined the amyloidogenic fibril formation properties of PG-1 in comparison with a well-defined amyloid, the amyloid-β (Aβ1-42) peptide. We have used atomic force microscopy (AFM) and thioflavin-T staining to investigate the kinetics of PG-1 fibrils growth and molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate the underlying mechanism. AFM images of PG-1 on a highly hydrophilic surface (mica) show fibrils with morphological similarities to Aβ1-42 fibrils. Real-time AFM imaging of fibril growth suggests that PG-1 fibril growth follows a relatively fast kinetics compared to the Aβ1-42 fibrils. The AFM results are in close agreement with results from thioflavin-T staining data. Furthermore, the results indicate that PG-1 forms fibrils in solution. Significantly, in contrast, we do not detect fibrillar structures of PG-1 on an anionic lipid bilayer 2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero- 3-phospho-L-serine/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine; only small PG-1 oligomers can be observed. Molecular dynamics simulations are able to identify the presence of these small oligomers on the membrane bilayer. Thus, our current results show that cytotoxic AMP PG-1 is amyloidogenic and capable of forming fibrils. Overall, comparing βrich AMPs and amyloids such as Aβ, in addition to cytotoxicity and amyloidogenicity, they share a common structural motif, and are channel forming. These combined properties support a functional relationship between amyloidogenic peptides and βsheet-rich cytolytic AMPs, suggesting that amyloids channels may have an antimicrobial function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1775-1783
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 6 Apr 2011


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