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Targeting Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus with Short Salt-Resistant Synthetic Peptides


The seriousness of microbial resistance combined with the lack of new antimicrobials has increased interest in the development of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as novel therapeutics. In this study, we evaluated the antimicrobial activities of two short synthetic peptides, namely, RRIKA and RR. These peptides exhibited potent antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, and their antimicrobial effects were significantly enhanced by addition of three amino acids in the C terminus, which consequently increased the amphipathicity, hydrophobicity, and net charge. Moreover, RRIKA and RR demonstrated a significant and rapid bactericidal effect against clinical and drug-resistant Staphylococcus isolates, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus (VISA), vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA), linezolid-resistant S. aureus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis. In contrast to many natural AMPs, RRIKA and RR retained their activity in the presence of physiological concentrations of NaCl and MgCl2. Both RRIKA and RR enhanced the killing of lysostaphin more than 1,000-fold and eradicated MRSA and VRSA isolates within 20 min. Furthermore, the peptides presented were superior in reducing adherent biofilms of S. aureus and S. epidermidis compared to results with conventional antibiotics. Our findings indicate that the staphylocidal effects of our peptides were through permeabilization of the bacterial membrane, leading to leakage of cytoplasmic contents and cell death. Furthermore, peptides were not toxic to HeLa cells at 4- to 8-fold their antimicrobial concentrations. The potent and salt-insensitive antimicrobial activities of these peptides present an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of multidrug-resistant S. aureus infections.

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