Over the last decade a significant number of studies have highlighted the central role of host antimicrobial (or defence) peptides in modulating the response of innate immune cells to pathogen-associated ligands. In humans, the most widely studied antimicrobial peptide is LL-37, a 37-residue peptide containing an amphipathic helix that is released via proteolytic cleavage of the precursor protein CAP18. Owing to its ability to protect against lethal endotoxaemia and clinically-relevant bacterial infections, LL-37 and its derivatives are seen as attractive candidates for anti-sepsis therapies. We have identified a novel family of molecules secreted by parasitic helminths (helminth defence molecules; HDMs) that exhibit similar biochemical and functional characteristics to human defence peptides, particularly CAP18. The HDM secreted by Fasciola hepatica (FhHDM-1) adopts a predominantly alpha-helical structure in solution. Processing of FhHDM-1 by F. hepatica cathepsin L1 releases a 34-residue C-terminal fragment containing a conserved amphipathic helix. This is analogous to the proteolytic processing of CAP18 to release LL-37, which modulates innate cell activation by classical toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). We show that full-length recombinant FhHDM-1 and a peptide analogue of the amphipathic C-terminus bind directly to LPS in a concentration-dependent manner, reducing its interaction with both LPS-binding protein (LBP) and the surface of macrophages. Furthermore, FhHDM-1 and the amphipathic C-terminal peptide protect mice against LPS-induced inflammation by significantly reducing the release of inflammatory mediators from macrophages. We propose that HDMs, by mimicking the function of host defence peptides, represent a novel family of innate cell modulators with therapeutic potential in anti-sepsis treatments and prevention of inflammation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology