Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) act either through membrane lysis or by attacking intracellular targets. Intracellular targeting AMPs are a resource for antimicrobial agent development. Several AMPs have been identified as intracellular targeting peptides; however, the intracellular targets of many of these peptides remain unknown. In the present study, we used an Escherichia coli proteome microarray to systematically identify the protein targets of three intracellular targeting AMPs: bactenecin 7 (Bac7), a hybrid of pleurocidin and dermaseptin (P-Der), and proline-arginine-rich peptide (PR-39). In addition, we also included the data of lactoferricin B (LfcinB) from our previous study for a more comprehensive analysis. We analyzed the unique protein hits of each AMP in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes. The results indicated that Bac7 targets purine metabolism and histidine kinase, LfcinB attacks the transcription-related activities and several cellular carbohydrate biosynthetic processes, P-Der affects several catabolic processes of small molecules, and PR-39 preferentially recognizes proteins involved in RNA- and folate-metabolism-related cellular processes. Moreover, both Bac7 and LfcinB target purine metabolism, whereas LfcinB and PR-39 target lipopoly-saccharide biosynthesis. This suggested that LfcinB and Bac7 as well as LfcinB and PR-39 have a synergistic effect on antimicrobial activity, which was validated through antimicrobial assays. Furthermore, common hits of all four AMPs indicated that all of them target arginine decarboxylase, which is a crucial enzyme for Escherichia coli survival in extremely acidic environments. Thus, these AMPs may display greater inhibition to bacterial growth in extremely acidic environments. We have also confirmed this finding in bacterial growth inhibition assays. In conclusion, this comprehensive identification and systematic analysis of intracellular targeting AMPs reveals crucial insights into the intracellular mechanisms of the action of AMPs.
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