Specifically targeting antimicrobial peptides for inhibition of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus

Mallawarachchi et al. (2024). Journal of Applied Microbiology 135 (4)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Biotechnology General Medicine
Abstract Aims Huanglongbing (citrus greening) is a plant disease putatively caused by the unculturable Gram-negative bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), and it has caused severe damage to citrus plantations worldwide. There are no definitive treatments for this disease, and conventional disease control techniques have shown limited efficacy. This work presents an in silico evaluation of using specifically targeting anti-microbial peptides (STAMPs) consisting of a targeting segment and an antimicrobial segment to inhibit citrus greening by inhibiting the BamA protein of CLas, which is an outer membrane protein crucial for bacterial viability. Methods and results Initially, a set of peptides with a high affinity toward BamA protein were screened and evaluated via molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulations and were verified in vitro via bio-layer interferometry (BLI). In silico studies and BLI experiments indicated that two peptides, HASP2 and HASP3, showed stable binding to BamA. Protein structures for STAMPs were created by fusing known anti-microbial peptides (AMPs) with the selected short peptides. The binding of STAMPs to BamA was assessed using molecular docking and binding energy calculations. The attachment of high-affinity short peptides significantly reduced the free energy of binding for AMPs, suggesting that it would make it easier for the STAMPs to bind to BamA. Efficacy testing in vitro using a closely related CLas surrogate bacterium showed that STAMPs had greater inhibitory activity than AMP alone. Conclusions In silico and in vitro results indicate that the STAMPs can inhibit CLas surrogate Rhizobium grahamii more effectively compared to AMPs, suggesting that STAMPs can achieve better inhibition of CLas, potentially via enhancing the site specificity of AMPs.
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