A novel bioinformatic method for the identification of antimicrobial peptides in metagenomes

Julianne Megaw*, Timofey Skvortsov, Giulia Gori, Aliyu I Dabai, Brendan F Gilmore, Christopher C R Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to develop a new bioinformatic approach for the identification of novel antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which did not depend on sequence similarity to known AMPs held within databases, but on structural mimicry of another antimicrobial compound, in this case an ultrashort, synthetic, cationic lipopeptide (C12-OOWW-NH2).When applied to a collection of metagenomic datasets, our outlined bioinformatic method successfully identified several short (8–10aa) functional AMPs, the activity of which was verified via disk diffusion and minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays against a panel of 12 bacterial strains. Some peptides had activity comparable to, or in some cases greater than those from published studies that identified AMPs using more conventional methods. We also explored the effects of modifications, including extension of the peptides, observing an activity peak at 9–12aa. Additionally, the inclusion of a C-terminal amide enhanced activity in most cases. Our most promising candidate (named PB2-10aa-NH2) was thermally stable, lipid soluble, and possessed synergistic activity with ethanol, but not with a conventional antibiotic (streptomycin).While several bioinformatic methods exist to predict AMPs, the approach outlined here is much simpler and can be used to quickly scan huge datasets. Searching for peptide sequences bearing structural similarity to other antimicrobial compounds may present a further opportunity to identify novel AMPs with clinical relevance, and provide a meaningful contribution to the pressing global issue of AMR.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Early online date21 Feb 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 Feb 2024


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