Antimicrobial Peptides Originating from Expression Libraries of Aurelia aurita and Mnemiopsis leidyi Prevent Biofilm Formation of Opportunistic Pathogens

The demand for novel antimicrobial compounds is rapidly growing due to the rising appearance of antibiotic resistance in bacteria; accordingly, alternative approaches are urgently needed. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are promising, since they are a naturally occurring part of the innate immune system and display remarkable broad-spectrum activity and high selectivity against various microbes. Marine invertebrates are a primary resource of natural AMPs. Consequently, cDNA expression (EST) libraries from the Cnidarian moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita and the Ctenophore comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi were constructed in Escherichia coli. Cell-free size-fractionated cell extracts (<3 kDa) of the two libraries (each with 29,952 clones) were consecutively screened for peptides preventing the biofilm formation of opportunistic pathogens using the crystal violet assay. The 3 kDa fraction of ten individual clones demonstrated promising biofilm-preventing activities against Klebsiella oxytoca and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Sequencing the respective activity-conferring inserts allowed for the identification of small ORFs encoding peptides (10-22 aa), which were subsequently chemically synthesized to validate their inhibitory potential. Although the peptides are likely artificial products from a random translation of EST inserts, the biofilm-preventing effects against K. oxytoca, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, S. epidermidis, and S. aureus were verified for five synthetic peptides in a concentration-dependent manner, with peptide BiP_Aa_5 showing the strongest effects.  Overall, the structural characteristics of the marine invertebrate-derived AMPs, their physicochemical properties, and their promising antibiofilm effects highlight them as attractive candidates for discovering new antimicrobials.

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