Persulcatusin (IP), which is an antimicrobial peptide found in Ixodes persulcatus midgut, is active against Gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. Multidrug-resistant bacteria in particular methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus (VISA) and vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA) are a worldwide clinical concern. In the present study, to explore the potential of IP as a new agent against multidrug-resistant S. aureus infections, we evaluated the antimicrobial activity of IP against multidrug-resistant S. aureus strains by MIC 90, morphological observation with scanning electron microscope (SEM), and the calcein leakage assay of membrane integrity. Among the six antimicrobial peptides used in this study, IP exhibited the lowest MIC 90 values for both vancomycin-susceptible and-resistant S. aureus strains. The IP MIC 90 against a VISA strain was equivalent to vancomycin, while the MIC 90 against VRSA was relatively low. SEM observations indicated that bacterial cells exposed to IP were crumpled and showed prominent structural changes. Moreover, IP influenced the cell membranes of both MRSA and VRSA in a mere 5 min, leading to leakage of the preloaded calcein. Although a VISA strain was resistant to the action of IP on cell membrane, the MIC 90 of IP was lower than that of Nisin, suggesting that IP had another bactericidal mechanism in addition to cell membrane attack. Our results indicate that the synthetic tick antimicrobial peptide, IP exhibits strong antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant S. aureus strains, including VRSA, via both cell membrane attack and another unknown mechanism. IP represents a promising candidate for a new anti-VRSA therapy.
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