Discovery of antimicrobial peptides active against antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens

  • Arif Felek

    Student thesis: Unknown


    Rapid development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among bacteria, combined with diminished new antibiotic discovery rates, is an increasing threat to human health. Bacterially derived antimicrobial peptides (AMP) hold excellent potential as potent novel therapeutics. This study embraces traditional natural AMP discovery methods and the newer in silico genome mining tool BAGEL 3 to facilitate identification of novel antimicrobial agents. The traditional screening efforts led to the discovery of two promising antimicrobial producer strains; Bacillus pumilus J1 producing two AMPs, peptides NI03 and NI04, and Klebsiella pneumoniae A7, which produced peptide NI05. In silico mining of the B. pumilus J1 and K. pneumoniae A7 genomes and those from under exploited anaerobic bacteria using BAGEL 3 yielded 18 putative bacteriocin structures that were associated with multiple known and relevant bacteriocin accessory genes and/or carried significant homologies to known bacteriocins. Peptide NI04 proved to be active against Gram positive species only, including meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin resistant enterococci and peptide NI03, in addition to these pathogens, showed activity against E. coli. Peptide NI05 was active against Gram-negative pathogens including extended spectrum β-lactamase producing E. coli. All isolated peptides were observed to be proteinaceous in nature and highly heat stable.Peptides were purified or partially purified using solid phase extraction followed by RP-HPLC. The mass of the peptides was determined using ESI or MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Tandem MS fragmentation of peptide NI04 generated several sequence tags. Draft genome sequences of the B. pumilus J1 and K. pneumoniae A7 producer strains were obtained using the Illumina MiSeq platform. This allowed identification of the genes encoding peptide NI04, which was confirmed to be novel and was named pumicin NI04. Further characterisation of pumicin NI04 demonstrated it was non-toxic to keratinocytes, Vero cells and non-haemolytic up to at least 18x the minimum inhibitory concentration. The discovery revealed that pumicin NI04 belongs to the WXG-100 peptide superfamily, having homology with the mycobacterial and staphylococcal virulence factor EsxA. This represents the first report of antimicrobial activity in a WXG-100 peptide and has intriguing evolutionary implications. Although it was not possible to fully characterise peptides NI03 and NI05, when BAGEL 3 was used to mine the B. pumilus J1 genome, a promising putative bacteriocin candidate was identified that was homologous to Enterocin AS-45, which also confers anti Gram-negative activity and may be related to the activity observed for NI03, however more evidence is required. Investigations of the K. pneumoniae A7 bacteriocin on the other hand helped establish that the K. pneumoniae microcin E492 pathway was present and highly conserved in strain A7, and is likely to be responsible for the activity observed indicating that NI05 was not a novel peptide.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorCatherine O'Neill (Supervisor) & Mathew Upton (Supervisor)


    • Antimicrobial discovery
    • Virulence factor
    • Natural pruduct
    • Antimicrobial peptide
    • Bacteriocin

    Cite this