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Vesicle Leakage Reflects the Target Selectivity of Antimicrobial Lipopeptides from Bacillus subtilis.

Biophysical journal (2015-11-21)
Sebastian Fiedler, Heiko Heerklotz
ABSTRACT

Cyclic lipopeptides act against a variety of plant pathogens and are thus highly efficient crop-protection agents. Some pesticides contain Bacillus subtilis strains that produce lipopeptide families, such as surfactins (SF), iturins (IT), and fengycins (FE). The antimicrobial activity of these peptides is mainly mediated by permeabilizing cellular membranes. We used a fluorescence-lifetime based leakage assay to examine the effect of individual lipid components in model membranes on lipopeptide activity. Leakage induction by FE was strongly inhibited by cholesterol (CHOL) as well as by phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and -glycerol (PG) lipids. Already moderate amounts of CHOL increased the tolerable FE content in membranes by an order of magnitude to 0.5 FE per PC + CHOL. This indicates reduced FE-lipid demixing and aggregation, which is known to be required for membrane permeabilization and explains the strong inhibition by CHOL. Ergosterol (ERG) had a weak antagonistic effect. This confirms results of microbiological tests and agrees with the fungicidal activity and selectivity of FE. SF is known to be much less selective in its antimicrobial action. In line with this, liposome leakage by SF was little affected by sterols and PE. Interestingly, PG increased SF activity and changed its leakage mechanism toward all-or-none, suggesting more specific, larger, and/or longer-lived defect structures. This may be because of the reduced energetic cost of locally accumulating anionic SF in an anionic lipid matrix. IT was found largely inactive in our assays. B. subtilis QST713 produces the lipopeptides in a ratio of 6 mol SF: 37 mol FE: 57 mol IT. Leakage induced by this native mixture was inhibited by CHOL and PE, but unaffected by ERG and by PG in the absence of PE. Note that fungi contain anionic lipids, but little PE. Hence, our data explain the strong, fungicidal activity and selectivity of B. subtilis QST713 lipopeptides.

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