Cationic Antimicrobial Peptide Cytotoxicity

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Fluorescence microscopy serves as a valuable tool for assessing the structural integrity and viability of eukaryotic cells. Through the use of calcein AM and the DNA stain 4,6-diamidino-2 phenylindole (DAPI), cell viability and membrane integrity can be qualified. Our group has previously shown the ultra-short cationic antimicrobial peptide H-OOWW-NH2; the amphibian derived 27-mer peptide Maximin-4and the ultra-short lipopeptide C12-OOWW-NH2 to be effective against a range of bacterial biofilms [1], displaying potential for use in the prevention of medical device-related infections [2]. Analysis of fluorescence micrographs, after staining with calcein AM and DAPI, shows the likely mode of cytotoxic action of cationic antimicrobial peptides and lipopeptides are via directmembrane disruption in eukaryotic cells. Selectivity is towards cidal action against prokaryotic cells, whose membranes are anionic in composition, such as those of bacteria, rather than for neutral zwitterionic membranes of eukaryotic cells. Membrane selectivity is determined by a multitude of physical parameters, particularly charge and hydrophobicity. The charge of the antimicrobial determines the extent of the initial electrostatic interactions with both prokaryotic and eukaryotic membranes, with a larger cationic charge favoring antimicrobial action. Tailoring of these properties is likely to be the key in successfully transferring antimicrobial peptides from laboratory experiments into clinical practice as safe pharmaceutical formulations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalSOJ Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2014


  • Lipopeptides
  • Qualitative
  • Tissue culture
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Cytotoxic


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