K9CATH is the sole cathelicidin in canines (dogs) and exhibits broad antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. K9CATH also modulates inflammatory responses and binds to LPS. These activities depend on the secondary structure and a net-positive charge of the peptide. Peptidylarginine deiminases (PAD) convert cationic peptidyl arginine to neutral citrulline. Thus, we hypothesized that citrullination is a biologically relevant modification of the peptide that would reduce the antibacterial and LPS-binding activities of K9CATH. Recombinant PAD2 and PAD4 citrullinated K9CATH to various extents and circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed that both native and citrullinated K9CATH exhibited similar a-helical secondary structures. Notably, citrullination of K9CATH reduced its bactericidal activity, abolished its ability to permeabilize the membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and reduced the hemolytic capacity. Electron microscopy showed that citrullinated K9CATH did not cause any morphological changes of Gram-negative bacteria, whereas the native peptide caused clear alterations of membrane integrity, concordant with a rapid bactericidal effect. Finally, citrullination of K9CATH impaired its capacity to inhibit LPS-mediated release of proinflammatory molecules from mouse and canine macrophages. In conclusion, citrullination attenuates the antibacterial and the LPS-binding properties of K9CATH, demonstrating the importance of a net positive charge for antibacterial lysis of bacteria and LPS-binding effects and suggests that citrullination is a means to regulate cathelicidin activities.
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