Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.138, No.35, 11318-11326, 2016
Overexpression of Antimicrobial, Anticancer, and Transmembrane Peptides in Escherichia coli through a Calmodulin-Peptide Fusion System
In recent years, the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become a serious health concern. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are an important component of the innate immune system of most organisms. A better understanding of their structures and mechanisms of action would lead to the design of more potent and safer AMPs as alternatives for current antibiotics. For detailed investigations, effective recombinant production which allows the facile modification of the amino acid sequence, the introduction of unnatural amino acids, and labeling with stable isotopes for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies is desired. Several expression strategies have been introduced in previous reports; however, their effectiveness has been limited to a select few AMPS. Here, we have studied calmodulin (CaM) as a more universal carrier protein to express many types of AMPS in E. coli. We have discovered that the unique architecture of CaM, consisting of two independent target binding domains with malleable methionine-rich interaction surfaces, can accommodate numerous amino acid sequences containing basic and hydrophobic residues. This effectively masks the toxic antimicrobial activities of many amphipathic AMPS and protects them from degradation during expression and purification. Here, we demonstrate the expression of various AMPs using a CaM-fusion expression system, including melittin, fowlicidin-1, tritrpticin, indolicidin, puroindoline A peptide, magainin II FSW, lactoferrampin B, MIP3 alpha(51-70), and human beta-defensin 3 (HBD-3), the latter requiring three disulfide bonds for proper folding. In addition, our approach was extended to the transmembrane domain of the cell adhesion protein L-selectin. We propose the use of the CaM-fusion system as a universal approach to express many cationic amphipathic peptides that are normally toxic and would kill the bacterial host cells.