Helical antimicrobial polypeptides with radial amphiphilicity

Menghua Xiong, Michelle W. Lee, Rachael A. Mansbach, Ziyuan Song, Yan Bao, Richard M. Peek, Catherine Yao, Lin Feng Chen, Andrew L. Ferguson, Gerard C.L. Wong, Jianjun Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


α-Helical antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) generally have facially amphiphilic structures that may lead to undesired peptide interactions with blood proteins and self-aggregation due to exposed hydrophobic surfaces. Here we report the design of a class of cationic, helical homo-polypeptide antimicrobials with a hydrophobic internal helical core and a charged exterior shell, possessing unprecedented radial amphiphilicity. The radially amphiphilic structure enables the polypeptide to bind effectively to the negatively charged bacterial surface and exhibit high antimicrobial activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Moreover, the shielding of the hydrophobic core by the charged exterior shell decreases nonspecific interactions with eukaryotic cells, as evidenced by low hemolytic activity, and protects the polypeptide backbone from proteolytic degradation. The radially amphiphilic polypeptides can also be used as effective adjuvants, allowing improved permeation of commercial antibiotics in bacteria and enhanced antimicrobial activity by one to two orders of magnitude. Designing AMPs bearing this unprecedented, unique radially amphiphilic structure represents an alternative direction of AMP development; radially amphiphilic polypeptides may become a general platform for developing AMPs to treat drug-resistant bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13155-13160
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 27 2015


  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Bacteria
  • Polypeptides
  • Radial amphiphilicity
  • α-helix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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