Aims: To develop an antimicrobial peptide with broad spectrum activity against bacteria implicated in biomaterial infection of low toxicity to mammalian cells and retaining its antimicrobial activity when covalently bound to a biomaterial surface.
Methods and Results: A synthetic peptide (melimine) was produced by combining portions of the antimicrobial cationic peptides mellitin and protamine. In contrast to the parent peptide melittin which lysed sheep red blood cells at >10 μg ml−1, melimine lysed sheep red blood cells only at concentrations >2500 μg ml−1, well above bactericidal concentrations. Additionally, melimine was found to be stable to heat sterilization. Evaluation by electron microscopy showed that exposure of both Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus to melimine at the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) produced changes in the structure of the bacterial membranes. Further, repeated passage of these bacteria in sub-MIC concentrations of melimine did not result in an increase in the MIC. Melimine was tested for its ability to reduce bacterial adhesion to contact lenses when adsorbed or covalently attached. Approximately 80% reduction in viable bacteria was seen against both P. aeruginosa and S. aureus for 500 μg per lens adsorbed melimine. Covalently linked melimine (18 ± 4 μg per lens) showed >70% reduction of these bacteria to the lens.
Conclusions: We have designed and tested a synthetic peptide melimine incorporating active regions of protamine and mellitin which may represent a good candidate for development as an antimicrobial coating for biomaterials.
Significance and Impact of the Study: Infection associated with the use of biomaterials remains a major barrier to the long-term use of medical devices. The antimicrobial peptide melimine is an excellent candidate for development as an antimicrobial coating for such devices.