New antibiotics that target membrane channels

Designing peptides that interfere with bacterial ion channels to combat antibiotic resistance.

The development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a global health threat. Recently, many strains of enterococci have acquired resistance to vancomycin, the last antibiotic that was still able to fight them successfully, and tuberculosis (TB) has re-emerged as a dangerous infection. New types of antibiotics are urgently needed to provide alternatives for the treatment of bacterial infection.

This project will examine one possible source of new antibiotics: charged peptides that can target bacterial cells and interfere with the function of channel proteins that are not found in humans. A number of such peptides are known to destroy bacteria, but to be useful they need to be both selective for bacterial cells and highly potent. This project will examine how such peptides incorporate into cell membranes, how this is affected by membrane potential and how these peptides interact with bacterial mechanosensitive channels.