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Plasma Corona Protects Human Immune Cells from Structurally Nanoengineered Antimicrobial Peptide Polymers

Alessia C. G. Weiss, Steven J. Shirbin, Hannah G. Kelly, , ,

Abstract: Safe and effective antimicrobials are needed to combat emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers (termed SNAPPs) interact with bacterial cell membranes to potently kill bacteria but may also interact at some level with human cell membranes. We studied the association of four different SNAPPs with six different white blood cells within fresh whole human blood by flow cytometry. In whole human blood, SNAPPs had detectable association with phagocytic cells and B cells, but not natural killer and T cells. However, without plasma proteins and therefore no protein corona on the SNAPPs, a greater marked association of SNAPPs with all white blood cell types was detected, resulting in cytotoxicity against most blood cell components. Thus, the formation of a protein corona around the SNAPPs reduced the association and prevented human blood cell cytotoxicity of the SNAPPs. Understanding the bio–nano interactions of these SNAPPs will be crucial to ensuring that the design of next-generation SNAPPs and other promising antimicrobial nanomaterials continues to display high efficacy toward antibiotic-resistant bacteria while maintaining a low toxicity to primary human cells.
Keywords: antimicrobial / polypeptide / star polymer / human whole blood assay / cellular association

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