Protein-only, antimicrobial peptide-containing recombinant nanoparticles with inherent built-in antibacterial activity

Naroa Serna, Laura Sánchez-García, Alejandro Sánchez-Chardi, Ugutz Unzueta, Mónica Roldán, Ramón Mangues, Esther Vázquez, Antonio Villaverde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Acta Materialia Inc. The emergence of bacterial antibiotic resistances is a serious concern in human and animal health. In this context, naturally occurring cationic antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) might play a main role in a next generation of drugs against bacterial infections. Taking an innovative approach to design self-organizing functional proteins, we have generated here protein-only nanoparticles with intrinsic AMP microbicide activity. Using a recombinant version of the GWH1 antimicrobial peptide as building block, these materials show a wide antibacterial activity spectrum in absence of detectable toxicity on mammalian cells. The GWH1-based nanoparticles combine clinically appealing properties of nanoscale materials with full biocompatibility, structural and functional plasticity and biological efficacy exhibited by proteins. Because of the largely implemented biological fabrication of recombinant protein drugs, the protein-based platform presented here represents a novel and scalable strategy in antimicrobial drug design, that by solving some of the limitations of AMPs offers a promising alternative to conventional antibiotics. Statement of Significance The low molecular weight antimicrobial peptide GWH1 has been engineered to oligomerize as self-assembling protein-only nanoparticles of around 50 nm. In this form, the peptide exhibits potent and broad antibacterial activities against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, without any harmful effect over mammalian cells. As a solid proof-of-concept, this finding strongly supports the design and biofabrication of nanoscale antimicrobial materials with in-built functionalities. The protein-based homogeneous composition offer advantages over alternative materials explored as antimicrobial agents, regarding biocompatibility, biodegradability and environmental suitability. Beyond the described prototype, this transversal engineering concept has wide applicability in the design of novel nanomedicines for advanced treatments of bacterial infections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-263
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2017


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Protein nanoparticles
  • Recombinant proteins
  • Self-assembling


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