Scientific reports 2016 09 016() 32499 doi 10.1038/srep32499
Human defensins are innate immune defense peptides with a remarkably broad repertoire of anti-pathogen activities. In addition to modulating immune response, inflammation, and angiogenesis, disintegrating bacterial membranes, and inactivating bacterial toxins, defensins are known to intercept various viruses at different stages of their life cycles, while remaining relatively benign towards human cells and proteins. Recently we have found that human defensins inactivate proteinaceous bacterial toxins by taking advantage of their low thermodynamic stability and acting as natural "anti-chaperones", i.e. destabilizing the native conformation of the toxins. In the present study we tested various proteins produced by several viruses (HIV-1, PFV, and TEV) and found them to be susceptible to destabilizing effects of human α-defensins HNP-1 and HD-5 and the synthetic θ-defensin RC-101, but not β-defensins hBD-1 and hBD-2 or structurally related plant-derived peptides. Defensin-induced unfolding promoted exposure of hydrophobic groups otherwise confined to the core of the viral proteins. This resulted in precipitation, an enhanced susceptibility to proteolytic cleavage, and a loss of viral protein activities. We propose, that defensins recognize and target a common and essential physico-chemical property shared by many bacterial toxins and viral proteins – the intrinsically low thermodynamic protein stability.