Correa, W. (Autor de correspondencia); Brandenburg, J.; Behrends, J.; Heinbockel, L.; Reiling, N.; Paulowski, L.; Schwudke, D.; Stephan, K.; Martínez de Tejada de Garaizábal, Guillermo
; Brandenburg, K.; Gutsmann, T.
The activity of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) has been investigated extensively using model membranes composed of phospholipids or lipopolysaccharides in aqueous environments. However, from a biophysical perspective, there is a large scientific interest regarding the direct interaction of membrane-active peptides with whole bacteria. Working with living bacteria limits the usability of experimental setups and the interpretation of the resulting data because of safety risks and the overlap of active and passive effects induced by AMPs. We killed or inactivated metabolic-active bacteria using gamma-irradiation or sodium azide, respectively. Microscopy, flow cytometry, and SYTOX green assays showed that the cell envelope remained intact to a high degree at the minimal bactericidal dose. Furthermore, the tumor-necrosis-factor-alpha-inducing activity of the lipopolysaccharides and the chemical lipid composition was unchanged. Determining the binding capacity of AMPs to the bacterial cell envelope by calorimetry is difficult because of an overlapping of the binding heat and metabolic activities of the bacteriainduced by the AMPs. The inactivation of all active processes helps to decipher the complex thermodynamic information. From the isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) results, we propose that the bacterial membrane potential (Delta psi) is possibly an underestimated modulator of the AMP activity. The negative surface charge of the outer leaflet of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is already neutralized by peptide concentrations below the minimal inhibitory concentration. This proves that peptide aggregation on the bacterial membrane surface plays a decisive role in the degree of antimicrobial activity. This will not only enable many biophysical approaches for the investigation between bacteria and membrane-active peptides in the future but will also make it possible to compare biophysical parameters of active and inactive bacteria. This opens up new possibilities to better understand the active and passive interaction processes between AMPs and bacteria.