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Understanding the mechanisms of antimicrobial, cytolytic and cell-penetrating peptides is important for the design of new peptides to be used as cargo-delivery systems or antimicrobials. But these peptides should not be hemolytic. Recently, we designed a series of such membrane-active peptides and tested several hypotheses about their mechanisms on model membranes. To that end, the Gibbs free energy of binding to 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) vesicles was determined experimentally. Because the main lipid components of the outermost monolayer of erythrocyte membranes are zwitterionic, like POPC, we hypothesized that the Gibbs free energy of binding of these peptides to POPC would also be a good indicator of their hemolytic activity. Now, the hemolytic activity of those synthetic peptides was examined by measuring the lysis of sheep erythrocyte suspensions after peptide addition. Indeed, the Gibbs free energy of binding was in good correlation with the hemolytic activity, which was represented by the concentration of peptide in solution that produced 50 % hemolysis. Furthermore, with two exceptions, those peptides that caused graded dye release from POPC vesicles were also hemolytic, while most of those that caused all-or-none release were not.


B Logan Spaller, Julie M Trieu, Paulo F Almeida. Hemolytic activity of membrane-active peptides correlates with the thermodynamics of binding to 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine bilayers. The Journal of membrane biology. 2013 Mar;246(3):257-62

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PMID: 23329339

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