Previous optimisation studies of peptide/peptoid hybrids typically comprise comparison of structurally related analogues displaying different oligomer length and diverse side chains. The present work concerns a systematically constructed series of 16 closely related 12-mer oligomers with an alternating cationic/hydrophobic design, representing a wide range of hydrophobicity and differences in relative side-chain lengths. The aim was to explore and rationalise the structure–activity relationships within a subclass of oligomers displaying variation of three structural features: (i) cationic side-chain length, (ii) hydrophobic side-chain length, and (iii) type of residue that is of a flexible peptoid nature. Increased side-chain length of cationic residues led to reduced hydrophobicity till the side chains became more extended than the aromatic/hydrophobic side chains, at which point hydrophobicity increased slightly. Evaluation of antibacterial activity revealed that analogues with lowest hydrophobicity exhibited reduced activity against E. coli
, while oligomers with the shortest cationic side chains were most potent against P. aeruginosa
. Thus, membrane-disruptive interaction with P. aeruginosa
appears to be promoted by a hydrophobic surface of the oligomers (comprised of the aromatic groups shielding the cationic side chains). Peptidomimetics with short cationic side chains exhibit increased hemolytic properties as well as give rise to decreased HepG2 (hepatoblastoma G2 cell line) cell viability. An optimal hydrophobicity window could be defined by a threshold of minimal hydrophobicity conferring activity toward E. coli
and a threshold for maximal hydrophobicity, beyond which cell selectivity was lost.
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