On the basis of the evolutionary relationship between scorpion toxins targeting K+
channels (KTxs) and antibacterial defensins (Zhu S., Peigneur S., Gao B., Umetsu Y., Ohki S., Tytgat J. Experimental conversion of a defensin into a neurotoxin: Implications for origin of toxic function. Mol. Biol. Evol. 2014, 31, 546–559), we performed protein engineering experiments to modify a bifunctional KTx (i.e., weak inhibitory activities on both K+
channels and bacteria) via substituting its carboxyl loop with the structurally equivalent loop of contemporary defensins. As expected, the engineered peptide (named MeuTXKα3-KFGGI) remarkably improved the antibacterial activity, particularly on some Gram-positive bacteria, including several antibiotic-resistant opportunistic pathogens. Compared with the unmodified toxin, its antibacterial spectrum also enlarged. Our work provides a new method to enhance the antibacterial activity of bifunctional scorpion venom peptides, which might be useful in engineering other proteins with an ancestral activity.
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