ACS Infect Dis. 2021 Jul 12. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.0c00894. Online ahead of print.
PEP27, a 27-amino acid (aa) peptide secreted by Streptococcus pneumoniae, is an autolytic peptide that functions as a major virulence factor. To develop a clinically applicable antimicrobial peptide (AMP), we designed PEP27 analogs with Trp substitutions to enhance its antimicrobial activity compared to that of PEP27. Particularly, PEP27-2 showed strong antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of bacteria, including multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria. It was found that the antimicrobial activity of PEP27-2 was increased by substituting Trp for the aa at the middle position of PEP27. We found that PEP27-2 acts as an effective cell-penetrating peptide in bacterial and mammalian cells. Here, we proved that subcutaneous infection with MDR Staphylococcus aureus induced skin lesions such as skeletal muscle damage, deep inflammation, and necrosis of the overlaying dermis in mice. Combination treatment with antibiotics revealed synergistic effects, remarkably reducing abscess size and improving the bacteria removal rate from the infection site. Moreover, PEP27-2-antibiotic combination treatment reduced inflammation, lowering levels of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, inducible NO synthase (iNOS), and cyclooxygenase (COX-2) in skin abscess tissue. The results suggest that the PEP27-2 peptide is a promising therapeutic option for combating MDR bacterial strains by enhancing antibiotic penetration and protecting against MDR bacteria.