Synthetic Antimicrobial Peptides as Agricultural Pesticides for Plant-Disease Control

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Abstract

There is a need of antimicrobial compounds in agriculture for plant-disease control, with low toxicity and reduced negative environmental impact. Antimicrobial peptides are produced by living organisms and offer strong possibilities in agriculture because new compounds can be developed based on natural structures with improved properties of activity, specificity, biodegradability, and toxicity. Design of new molecules has been achieved using combinatorial-chemistry procedures coupled to high-throughput screening systems and data processing with design-of-experiments (DOE) methodology to obtain QSAR equation models and optimized compounds. Upon selection of best candidates with low cytotoxicity and moderate stability to protease digestion, anti-infective activity has been evaluated in plant–pathogen model systems. Suitable compounds have been submitted to acute toxicity testing in higher organisms and exhibited a low toxicity profile in a mouse model. Large-scale production can be achieved by solution organic or chemoenzymatic procedures in the case of very small peptides, but, in many cases, production can be performed by biotechnological methods using genetically modified microorganisms (fermentation) or transgenic crops (plant biofactories).

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