Mechanism of membrane permeation induced by synthetic β-hairpin peptides

Kshitij Gupta, Hyunbum Jang, Kevin Harlen, Anu Puri, Ruth Nussinov, Joel P. Schneider, Robert Blumenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have investigated the membrane destabilizing properties of synthetic amphiphilic cationic peptides, MAX1 and MAX35, which have the propensity to form β-hairpin structures under certain conditions, and a control non-β-hairpin-forming peptide MAX8V16E. All three peptides bind to liposomes containing a mixture of zwitterionic POPC and negatively charged POPS lipids as determined by Zeta potential measurements. Circular dichroism measurements indicated folding of MAX1 and MAX35 in the presence of the POPC/POPS liposomes, whereas no such folding was observed with MAX8V16E. There was no binding or folding of these peptides to liposomes containing only POPC. MAX1 and MAX35 induced release of contents from negatively charged liposomes, whereas MAX8V16E failed to promote solute release under identical conditions. Thus, MAX1 and MAX35 bind to, and fold at the surface of negatively charged liposomes adopting a lytic conformation. We ruled out leaky fusion as a mechanism of release by including 2 mol % PEG-PE in the liposomes, which inhibits aggregation/fusion but not folding of MAX or MAX-induced leakage. Using a concentration-dependent quenching probe (calcein), we determined that MAX-induced leakage of liposome contents was an all-or-none process. At MAX1 concentrations, which cause release of ∼50% of the liposomes that contain small (Rh <1.5 nm) markers, only ∼15% of those liposomes release a fluorescent dextran of 40 kDa. A multimeric model of the pore is presented based on these results. Atomistic molecular dynamics simulations show that barrels consisting of 10 β-hairpin MAX1 and MAX35 peptides are relatively more stable than MAX8V16E barrels in the bilayer, suggesting that barrels of this size are responsible for the peptides lytic action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2093-2103
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - 5 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanism of membrane permeation induced by synthetic β-hairpin peptides'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this