Towards designing globular antimicrobial peptide mimics: role of polar functional groups in biomimetic ternary antimicrobial polymers†
Using atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, we study the interaction of ternary methacrylate polymers, composed of charged cationic, hydrophobic and neutral polar groups, with model bacterial membrane. Our simulation data shows that the random ternary polymers can penetrate deep into the membrane interior and partitioning of even a single polymer has a pronounced effect on the membrane structure. Lipid reorganization, on polymer binding, shows a strong affinity of the ternary polymer for anionic POPG lipids and the same is compared with the control case of binary polymers (only cationic and hydrophobic groups). While binary polymers exhibit strong propensity of acquired amphiphilic conformations upon membrane insertion, our results strongly suggest that such amphiphilic conformations are absent in the case of random ternary polymers. The ternary polymers adopt a more folded conformation, staying aligned in the direction of the membrane normal and subsequently penetrating deeper into the membrane interior suggesting a novel membrane partitioning mechanism without amphiphilic conformations. Finally, we also examine the interactions of ternary polymer aggregates with model bacterial membranes, which show that replacing some of the hydrophobic groups by polar groups leads to weakly held ternary aggregates enabling them to undergo rapid partitioning and insertion into membrane interior. Our work thus underscores the role of inclusion of polar groups into the framework of traditional binary biomimetic antimicrobial polymers and suggests different mode of partitioning into bacterial membranes, mimicking antimicrobial mechanism of globular antimicrobial peptides like Defensin.