• antimicrobial peptides;
  • stereochemistry;
  • enantiomers;
  • cathelicidins;
  • ATRA peptide


Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) represent an ancient defense mechanism against invading bacteria, with peptides such as the cathelicidins being essential elements of vertebrate innate immunity. CAMPs are typically associated with broad-spectrum antimicrobial potency and limited bacterial resistance. The cathelicidin identified from the elapid snake Naja atra (NA-CATH) contains a semi-conserved repeated 11-residue motif (ATRA motif) with a sequence pattern consistent with formation of an amphipathic helical conformation. Short peptide amides (ATRA-1, -1A, -1P, and -2) generated based on the pair of ATRA motifs in NA-CATH exhibited varied antimicrobial potencies. The small size of the ATRA peptides, coupled with their varied antimicrobial performances, make them interesting models to study the impact various physico-chemical properties have on antimicrobial performance in helical CAMPs. Accordingly, the d- and l-enantiomers of the peptide ATRA-1A, which in earlier studies had shown both good antimicrobial performance and strong helical character, were investigated in order to assess the impact peptide stereochemistry has on antimicrobial performance and interaction with chiral membranes. The ATRA-1A isomers exhibit varied potencies against four bacterial strains, and their conformational properties in the presence of mixed zwitterionic/anionic liposomes are influenced by anionic lipid content. These studies reveal subtle differences in the properties of the peptide isomers. Differences are also seen in the abilities of the ATRA-1A isomers to induce liposome fusion/aggregation, bilayer rearrangement and lysing through turbidity studies and fluorescence microscopy. The similarities and differences in the properties of the ATRA-1A isomers could aid in efforts to develop d-peptide-based therapeutics using high-performing l-peptides as templates. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers (Pept Sci) 100: 387–401, 2013.