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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Anti-infective activity of apolipoprotein domain derived peptides in vitro: identification of novel antimicrobial peptides related to apolipoprotein B with anti-HIV activity

Bridie A Kelly1, Ian Harrison2, Áine McKnight2 and Curtis B Dobson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Life Sciences, Stopford Building, The University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK

2 Queen Mary University of London, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Centre for Immunology & Infectious Disease, Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Barts & The London, 4 Newark Street, Whitechapel, London, E1 2AT, UK

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-13

Published: 18 March 2010



Previous reports have shown that peptides derived from the apolipoprotein E receptor binding region and the amphipathic α-helical domains of apolipoprotein AI have broad anti-infective activity and antiviral activity respectively. Lipoproteins and viruses share a similar cell biological niche, being of overlapping size and displaying similar interactions with mammalian cells and receptors, which may have led to other antiviral sequences arising within apolipoproteins, in addition to those previously reported. We therefore designed a series of peptides based around either apolipoprotein receptor binding regions, or amphipathic α-helical domains, and tested these for antiviral and antibacterial activity.


Of the nineteen new peptides tested, seven showed some anti-infective activity, with two of these being derived from two apolipoproteins not previously used to derive anti-infective sequences. Apolipoprotein J (151-170) - based on a predicted amphipathic alpha-helical domain from apolipoprotein J - had measurable anti-HSV1 activity, as did apolipoprotein B (3359-3367) dp (apoBdp), the latter being derived from the LDL receptor binding domain B of apolipoprotein B. The more active peptide - apoBdp - showed similarity to the previously reported apoE derived anti-infective peptide, and further modification of the apoBdp sequence to align the charge distribution more closely to that of apoEdp or to introduce aromatic residues resulted in increased breadth and potency of activity. The most active peptide of this type showed similar potent anti-HIV activity, comparable to that we previously reported for the apoE derived peptide apoEdpL-W.


These data suggest that further antimicrobial peptides may be obtained using human apolipoprotein sequences, selecting regions with either amphipathic α-helical structure, or those linked to receptor-binding regions. The finding that an amphipathic α-helical region of apolipoprotein J has antiviral activity comparable with that for the previously reported apolipoprotein AI derived peptide 18A, suggests that full-length apolipoprotein J may also have such activity, as has been reported for full-length apolipoprotein AI. Although the strength of the anti-infective activity of the sequences identified was limited, this could be increased substantially by developing related mutant peptides. Indeed the apolipoprotein B-derived peptide mutants uncovered by the present study may have utility as HIV therapeutics or microbicides.