Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are ubiquitous in nature where they play important roles in host defense and microbial control. Despite their natural origin, antimicrobial spectrum and potency, the lead peptide candidates that so far have entered pharmaceutical development have all been further optimized by rational or semi-rational approaches. In recent years, several high throughput screening (HTS) systems have been developed to specifically address optimization of AMPs. These include a range of computational in silico systems and cell-based in vivo systems. The in silico-based screening systems comprise several computational methods such as Quantitative Structure / Activity Relationships (QSAR) as well as simulation methods mimicking peptide / membrane interactions. The in vivo-based systems can be divided in cis-acting and trans-acting screening systems. The cisacting pre-screens, where the AMP exerts its antimicrobial effect on the producing cell, allow screening of millions or even billions of lead candidates for their basic antimicrobial or membrane-perturbating activity. The transacting screens, where the AMP is secreted or actively liberated from the producing cell and interacts with cells different from the producing cell, allow for screening under more complex and application-relevant conditions. This review describes the application of HTS systems employed for AMPs and lists advantages as well as limitations of these systems.
Keywords: antimicrobial peptide (amp), high throughput screening (hts), suicide expression system (ses), trans-acting peptide system (taps), novispirin, plectasin, quantitative structure-activity relationship (qsar)