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The deployment of the innate immune system in humans is essential to protect us from infection. Human cathelicidin LL-37 is a linear host defense peptide with both antimicrobial and immune modulatory properties. Despite years of studies of numerous peptides, SK-24, corresponding to the long hydrophobic domain (residues 9–32) in the anionic lipid-bound NMR structure of LL-37, has not been investigated. This study reports the structure and activity of SK-24. Interestingly, SK-24 is entirely helical (~100%) in phosphate buffer (PBS), more than LL-37 (84%), GI-20 (75%), and GF-17 (33%), while RI-10 and 17BIPHE2 are essentially randomly coiled (helix%: 7–10%). These results imply an important role for the additional N-terminal amino acids (likely E16) of SK-24 in stabilizing the helical conformation in PBS. It is proposed herein that SK-24 contains the minimal sequence for effective oligomerization of LL-37. Superior to LL-37 and RI-10, SK-24 shows an antimicrobial activity spectrum comparable to the major antimicrobial peptides GF-17 and GI-20 by targeting bacterial membranes and forming a helical conformation. Like the engineered peptide 17BIPHE2, SK-24 has a stronger antibiofilm activity than LL-37, GI-20, and GF-17. Nevertheless, SK-24 is least hemolytic at 200 µM compared with LL-37 and its other peptides investigated herein. Combined, these results enabled us to appreciate the elegance of the long amphipathic helix SK-24 nature deploys within LL-37 for human antimicrobial defense. SK-24 may be a useful template of therapeutic potential

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.