Publication Date



American Society for Microbiology: mBio


Fungal resistance to commonly used medicines is a growing public health threat, and there is a dire need to develop new classes of antifungals. We previously described a peptide produced by Enterococcus faecalis, EntV, that restricts Candida albicans to a benign form rather than having direct fungicidal activity. Moreover, we showed that one 12-amino acid (aa) alpha helix of this peptide retained full activity, with partial activity down to the 10aa alpha helix. Using these peptides as a starting point, the current investigation sought to identify the critical features necessary for antifungal activity and to screen for new variants with enhanced activity using both biofilm and C. elegans infection assays. First, the short peptides were screened for residues with critical activity by generating alanine substitutions. Based on this information, we used synthetic molecular evolution (SME) to rationally vary the specific residues of the 10aa variant in combination to generate a library that was screened to identify variants with more potent antifungal activity than the parent template. Five gain-of-function peptides were identified. Additionally, chemical modifications to the peptides to increase stability, including substitutions of D-amino acids and hydrocarbon stapling, were investigated. The most promising peptides were additionally tested in mouse models of oropharyngeal and systemic candidiasis where their efficacy in preventing infection was demonstrated. The expectation is that these discoveries will contribute to the development of new therapeutics in the fight against antimicrobial resistant fungi.


Since the early 1980s, the incidence of disseminated life-threatening fungal infections has been on the rise. Worldwide, Candida and Cryptococcus species are among the most common agents causing these infections. Simultaneously, with this rise of clinical incidence, there has also been an increased prevalence of antifungal resistance, making treatment of these infections very difficult. For example, there are now strains of Candida auris that are resistant to all three classes of currently used antifungal drugs. In this study, we report on a strategy that allows for the development of novel antifungal agents by using synthetic molecular evolution. These discoveries demonstrate that the enhancement of antifungal activity from naturally occurring peptides is possible and can result in clinically relevant agents that have efficacy in multiple in vivo models as well as the potential for broad-spectrum activity.


antifungal therapy, Candida, Cryptococcus, antimicrobial peptides



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