Effect of fengycin, a lipopeptide produced by Bacillus subtilis, on model biomembranes
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Fengycin is a biologically active lipopeptide produced by several Bacillus subtilis strains. The lipopeptide is known to develop antifungal activity against filamentous fungi and to have hemolytic activity 40-fold lower than that of surfactin, another lipopeptide produced by B. subtilis. The aim of this work is to use complementary biophysical techniques to reveal the mechanism of membrane perturbation by fengycin. These include: 1), the Langmuir trough technique in combination with Brewster angle microscopy to study the lipopeptide penetration into monolayers; 2), ellipsometry to investigate the adsorption of fengycin onto supported lipid bilayers; 3), differential scanning calorimetry to determine the thermotropic properties of lipid bilayers in the presence of fengycin; and 4), cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, which provides information on the structural organization of the lipid/lipopeptide system. From these experiments, the mechanism of fengycin action appears to be based on a two-state transition controlled by the lipopeptide concentration. One state is the monomeric, not deeply anchored and nonperturbing lipopeptide, and the other state is a buried, aggregated form, which is responsible for membrane leakage and bioactivity. The mechanism, thus, appears to be driven mainly by the physicochemical properties of the lipopeptide, i.e., its amphiphilic character and affinity for lipid bilayers.