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Keywords:

  • antimicrobial peptide;
  • net charge;
  • peptide–membrane interaction;
  • proline

Our previous study reported Val/Arg-rich peptides, and the relationship was linear between hydrophobicity and antimicrobial potency within a certain range. Here, we further develop a new series of analogs to investigate the effect of net charge and Pro residue on activity. Replacement of Gly with Ala or Pro led to the decrease in antimicrobial activity. The substitution of Gly with Ala retained its hemolytic activity, while the substitution with Pro significantly decreased the toxicity, suggesting positive effect of Pro on hemolytic activity. The increase in net charge from +4 to +6 significantly improved antimicrobial activity and decreased the hemolysis. However, antibacterial and hemolytic activities were not affected by increasing the net charge from +6 to +8, indicating a moderate net positive charge. The peptides produced larger blue shifts in PE/PG than in PC/cholesterol, suggesting a stronger affinity with negatively charged membrane over zwitterionic membrane. Lowering the net charge or insert of Pro led to the lack of α-helical structure in SDS micelles, which may be correlated with weakened antimicrobial potency. This study indicated that Val/Arg-rich peptides should have moderate net charge and Pro may play a role in reducing the toxicity against red blood cells.