Host defense peptides (HDPs), such as cathelicidins, are small, cationic, amphipathic peptides and represent an important part of the innate immune system. Most cathelicidins, including the porcine PMAP-36, are membrane active and disrupt the bacterial membrane. For example, a chicken cathelicidin, CATH-2, has been previously shown to disrupt both Escherichia coli membranes and to release, at sub-lethal concentrations, outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). Since OMVs are considered promising vaccine candidates, we sought to investigate the effect of sub-bactericidal concentrations of PMAP-36 on both OMV release by a porcine strain of Bordetella bronchiseptica and on the modulation of immune responses to OMVs. PMAP-36 treatment of bacteria resulted in a slight increase in OMV release. The characteristics of PMAP-36-induced OMVs were compared with those of spontaneously released OMVs and OMVs induced by heat treatment. The stability of both PMAP-36- and heat-induced OMVs was decreased compared to spontaneous OMVs, as shown by dynamic light scattering. Furthermore, treatment of bacteria with PMAP-36 or heat resulted in an increase in negatively charged phospholipids in the resulting OMVs. A large increase in lysophospholipid content was observed in heat-induced OMVs, which was at least partially due to the activity of the outer-membrane phospholipase A (OMPLA). Although PMAP-36 was detected in OMVs isolated from PMAP-36-treated bacteria, the immune response of porcine bone-marrow-derived macrophages to these OMVs was similar as those against spontaneous or heat-induced OMVs. Therefore, the effect of PMAP-36 addition after OMV isolation was investigated. This did decrease cytokine expression of OMV-stimulated macrophages. These results indicate that PMAP-36 is a promising molecule to attenuate undesirable immune responses, for instance in vaccines.
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