Physical Basis for Membrane-Charge Selectivity of Cationic Antimicrobial Peptides

Antimicrobial peptides are known to selectively disrupt (highly charged) microbial membranes by asymmetrical incorporation into the outer layers. We present a physical basis for membrane-charge selectivity of cationic antimicrobial peptides. In particular, we provide a clear picture of how peptide-charge Q influences the asymmetrical insertion—one salient feature is the existence of an optimal peptide charge, at which selective insertion is optimized. Our results suggest that large Q is required for antimicrobial selectivity, consistent with experiments.