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Keywords:

  • amphipathic helix;
  • antibacterial peptides;
  • anticancer activity;
  • NMR solution structure;
  • sequencing.

Seventeen aurein peptides are present in the secretion from the granular dorsal glands of the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea, and 16 from the corresponding secretion of the related Southern Bell Frog L. raniformis. Ten of these peptides are common to both species. Thirteen of the aurein peptides show wide-spectrum antibiotic and anticancer activity. These peptides are named in three groups (aureins 1–3) according to their sequences. Amongst the more active peptides are aurein 1.2 (GLFDIIKKIAESF-NH2), aurein 2.2 (GLFDIVKKVVGALGSL-NH2) and aurein 3.1 (GLFDIVKKIAGHIAGSI-NH2). Both L. aurea and L. raniformis have endoproteases that deactivate the major membrane-active aurein peptides by removing residues from both the N- and C-termini of the peptides. The most abundant degradation products have two residues missing from the N-terminal end of the peptide. The solution structure of the basic peptide, aurein 1.2, has been determined by NMR spectroscopy to be an amphipathic α-helix with well-defined hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions. Certain of the aurein peptides (e.g. aureins 1.2 and 3.1) show anticancer activity in the NCI test regime, with LC50 values in the 10−5−10−4 m range. The aurein 1 peptides have only 13 amino-acid residues: these are the smallest antibiotic and anticancer active peptides yet reported from an anuran. The longer aurein 4 and 5 peptides, e.g. aurein 4.1 (GLIQTIKEKLKELAGGLVTGIQS-OH) and aurein 5.1 (GLLDIVTGLLGNLIVDVLKPKTPAS-OH) show neither antibacterial nor anticancer activity.