Effects of antimicrobial peptides on methanogenic archaea.

C Bang, A Schilhabel, K Weidenbach, A Kopp, T Goldmann, T Gutsmann, R A Schmitz
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Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
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As members of the indigenous human microbiota found on several mucosal tissues, Methanobrevibacter smithii and Methanosphaera stadtmanae are exposed to the effects of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) secreted by these epithelia. Although antimicrobial and molecular effects of AMPs on bacteria are well described, data for archaea are not available yet. Besides, it is not clear whether AMPs affect them as the archaeal cell envelope differs profoundly in terms of chemical composition and structure from that of bacteria. The effects of different synthetic AMPs on growth of M. smithii, M. stadtmanae, and Methanosarcina mazei were tested using a microtiter plate assay adapted to their anaerobic growth requirements. All three tested methanoarchaea were highly sensitive against derivatives of human cathelicidin, of porcine lysin, and a synthetic antilipopolysaccharide peptide (Lpep); however, sensitivities differed markedly among the methanoarchaeal strains. The potent AMP concentrations affecting growth were below 10 μM, whereas growth of Escherichia coli WBB01 was not affected at peptide concentrations up to 10 μM under the same anaerobic growth conditions. Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy revealed that the structural integrity of the methanoarchaeal cells is destroyed within 4 h after incubation with AMPs. The disruption of the cell envelope of M. smithii, M. stadtmanae, and M. mazei within a few minutes of exposure was verified by using LIVE/DEAD staining. Our results strongly suggest that the release of AMPs by eukaryotic epithelial cells is a potent defense mechanism targeting not only bacteria, but also methanoarchaea.