ISSN 1214-0287 (on-line), ISSN 1214-021X (printed)
J Appl Biomed
Volume 8 (2010), No 3, p 159-167
DOI 10.2478/v10136-009-0019-3

Membrane-active peptides as anti-infectious agents

Luis Rivas, Juan Roman Luque-Ortega, Maria Fernandez-Reyes, David Andreu

Address: Luis Rivas, Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas - CSIC, Ramiro de Maeztu 9, E-28040 Madrid, Spain

Received 15th March 2010.
Revised 23rd April 2010.
Published online 12th May 2010.

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The lipid components of pathogen cell membranes have been considered as a poor pharmacological target, due to their universal distribution and apparent homogeneity throughout living organisms. Among the rare exceptions to this view one could mention polyene antibiotics such as amphotericin, or peptide antibiotics such as the polymyxins and the gramicidins. In the last two decades, however, the above notion has been challenged by two main lines of discovery; first, natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that kill pathogens by interaction with phospholipids and membrane permeabilization, and secondly, cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs), capable of introducing into cells a variety of cargoes in the absence of specific receptors, again by interaction at some point with membrane phospholipids. For both AMPs and CPPs, the pharmacological proof-of-concept has been successfully demonstrated, and promising applications as nanobiotechnological tools have been envisaged though not hitherto materialized in clinical settings. In this review we briefly examine the pros and cons of these two classes of therapeutic agents, as well as strategies aimed at rationalizing and expanding their potentiality.

membrane; cell-penetrating peptide; antimicrobial peptide; antibiotic resistance; infectious disease

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