Wednesday 12 July 2023

Busting biofilms: New peptide research to combat bacterial communities


Image: Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #6687. Public Domain

An anti-biofilm cyclic peptide targets a secreted aminopeptidase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The innovation comes from the University of St. Andrews, where researchers have developed peptides that can help combat bacteria growing in biofilms, which occur in up to 80 percent of human infections.



The team of researchers have developed antimicrobial peptides that can target the harmful bacteria growing in biofilms. This is important since treating infections becomes significantly more challenging when biofilms are present, as they not only reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics but also give rise to several medical complications.


These complications include infections following joint replacements, prosthetic devices, as well as contamination in catheters and other medical equipment. The lack of specific treatments makes the management and treatment of biofilms exceptionally difficult. Biofilms have been found to be involved in a wide variety of microbial infections in the body, by one estimate 80% of all infections Infectious processes in which biofilms have been implicated, in addition to prosthetic devices, include common problems such as bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, catheter infections, middle-ear infections, formation of dental plaque, gingivitis, and coating contact lenses.


The scientists determined how a key enzyme (PaAP) in biofilms work and developed a new strategy to inhibit the protein. Their inhibitor is potent and targets cells from the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa in biofilms. 


Pseudomonas aeruginosa secretes several endopeptidases, including elastase, alkaline proteinase (Apr), a lysine-specific endopeptidase (LysC), and an aminopeptidase (PaAP), all of which are important virulence factors.


The compound to combat the biofilm forming mechanism is an aminopeptidase. These are enzymes that catalyse the cleavage of amino acids from the amino terminus (N-terminus) of proteins or peptides (exopeptidases).


The University of St Andrews Technology Transfer Centre and industry partner Locate Bio, a biomedicine spinout of the University of Nottingham, are seeking to commercialise the technology.


The research offers molecular insights applicable to aminopeptidases in diverse organisms and paves the way for similar inquiries.


The research appears in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, titled “An anti-biofilm cyclic peptide targets a secreted aminopeptidase from P. aeruginosa.”


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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