A research team from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UCLA was initially working to find and design antimicrobial peptides – smaller chains of amino acids that is capable of killing bacteria by punching small hones in cell membranes. In order to accomplish this, they build a computer platform that was capable of differentiate between different amino acid sequences that can kill and those that cannot. During the course of action, the team discovered that program began to identify peptide features that altered membrane shapes. The shape changing feature supports the peptides travel across the membrane and get into the cell which empowers the peptides to carry and deliver medicines into the sick cells directly.
With the help of this screening method, they were not only able to find new peptides that had this characteristic. They also found that several known human proteins and londer amino acid chains has the same ability but lacked the membrane crossing feature. The UCLA research team was led by Gerard Wong, a bioengineering professor; the computational tools, on the other hand, were developed in association with Andrew Ferguson, an engineering and materials science professor from Illinois.
Wong says, “Using machine learning, we developed a computer program that can differentiate between a peptide sequence that is antimicrobial and one that isn’t antimicrobial. During this process, we serendipitously discovered a way to differentiate between peptides that permeate membranes and peptides that don’t.” They closely observed a special class of famous peptides “antimicrobial peptides” that are proteins and help immune system by eliminating bacteria, basically, through membrane permeation.
The lead author of this paper, Ernest Lee, also adds, “Not only are we able to design better antimicrobials to combat drug-resistant infections, we can also design peptides to deliver medicines or other cargo into cells, understand how viruses and bacteria bypass membranes, and uncover membrane activity in proteins that previously have not been characterized to have membrane activity.”
Images show various types of curvatures on cell membranes that are conducive to permeability. Credit: Ernest Lee and Gerard Wong/UCLA
Filed Under: News