Human LL-37, a cationic antimicrobial peptide, was recently shown to have antiviral activity against influenza A virus (IAV) strains in vitro and in vivo. In this study we compared the anti-influenza activity of LL-37 with that of several fragments derived from LL-37. We first tested the peptides against a seasonal H3N2 strain and the mouse adapted H1N1 strain, PR-8. The N-terminal fragment, LL-23, had slight neutralizing activity against these strains. In LL-23V9 serine 9 is substituted by valine creating a continuous hydrophobic surface. LL-23V9 has been shown to have increased anti-bacterial activity compared to LL-23 and we now show slightly increased antiviral activity compared to LL-23 as well. The short central fragments, FK-13 and KR-12, which have anti-bacterial activity did not inhibit IAV. In contrast, a longer 20 amino acid central fragment of LL-37 (GI-20) had neutralizing activity similar to LL-37. None of the peptides inhibited viral hemagglutination or neuraminidase activity. We next tested activity of the peptides against a strain of pandemic H1N1 of 2009 (A/California/04/09/H1N1 or "Cal09"). Unexpectedly, LL-37 had markedly reduced activity against Cal09 using several cell types and assays of antiviral activity. A mutant viral strain containing just the hemagglutinin (HA) of 2009 pandemic H1N1 was inhibited by LL-37, suggested that genes other than the HA are involved in the resistance of pH1N1. In contrast, GI-20 did inhibit Cal09. In conclusion, the central helix of LL-37 incorporated in GI-20 appears to be required for optimal antiviral activity. The finding that GI-20 inhibits Cal09 suggests that it may be possible to engineer derivatives of LL-37 with improved antiviral properties.
Tripathi, S., Wang, G., White, M., Qi, L., Taubenberger, J., & Hartshorn, K. L. (2015). Antiviral activity of the human cathelicidin, LL-37, and derived peptides on seasonal and pandemic influenza A viruses. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124706