Structure-mechanism relationships are key determinants of host defense peptide efficacy. These relationships are influenced by anatomic, physiologic and microbiologic contexts. Structure-mechanism correlates were assessed for the synthetic peptide RP-1, modeled on microbicidal domains of platelet kinocidins. Antimicrobial efficacies and mechanisms of action against susceptible (S) or resistant (R) Salmonella typhimurium (ST), Staphylococcus aureus (SA), and Candida albicans (CA) strain pairs were studied at pH 7.5 and 5.5. Although RP-1 was active against all study organisms, it exhibited greater efficacy against bacteria at pH 7.5, but greater efficacy against CA at pH 5.5. RP-1 de-energized SA and CA, but caused hyperpolarization of ST in both pH conditions. However, RP-1 permeabilized STS and CA strains at both pH, whereas permeabilization was modest for STR or SA strain at either pH. Biochemical analysis, molecular modeling, and FTIR spectroscopy data revealed that RP-1 has indistinguishable net charge and backbone trajectories at pH 5.5 and 7.5. Yet, concordant with organism-specific efficacy, surface plasmon resonance, and FTIR, molecular dynamics revealed modest helical order increases but greater RP-1 avidity and penetration of bacterial than eukaryotic lipid systems, particularly at pH 7.5. The present findings suggest that pH– and target–cell lipid contexts influence selective antimicrobial efficacy and mechanisms of RP-1 action. These findings offer new insights into selective antimicrobial efficacy and context–specificity of antimicrobial peptides in host defense, and support design strategies for potent anti-infective peptides with minimal concomitant cytotoxicity.