A.M. Khamis, M. Essack, X. Gao, V.B. Bajic
The increased prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) pathogens heightens the need to design new antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) exhibit broad-spectrum potent activity against MDR pathogens and kills rapidly, thus giving rise to AMPs being recognized as a potential substitute for conventional antibiotics. Designing new AMPs using current in-silico approaches is, however, challenging due to the absence of suitable models, large number of design parameters, testing cycles, production time and cost. To date, AMPs have merely been categorized into families according to their primary sequences, structures and functions. The ability to computationally determine the properties that discriminate AMP families from each other could help in exploring the key characteristics of these families and facilitate the in-silico design of synthetic AMPs.
Here we studied 14 AMP families and sub-families. We selected a specific description of AMP amino acid sequence and identified compositional and physicochemical properties of amino acids that accurately distinguish each AMP family from all other AMPs with an average sensitivity, specificity and precision of 92.88%, 99.86% and 95.96%, respectively. Many of our identified discriminative properties have been shown to be compositional or functional characteristics of the corresponding AMP family in literature. We suggest that these properties could serve as guides for in-silico methods in design of novel synthetic AMPs. The methodology we developed is generic and has a potential to be applied for characterization of any protein family.