In addition to membrane disruption, the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (AMP) LL-37 translocates through the bacterial inner membrane to target intracellular molecules. The present study aims to identify an alternate mechanism and a cytoplasmic target of LL-37 in Francisella. LL-37 binding proteins from Francisella novicida U112 bacterial lysates were precipitated by using biotinylated LL-37 (B-LL-37) and NeutrAvidin-agarose beads. Bound proteins were identified by LC–MS/MS, validated and characterized by bead pull-down assays and differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF). The cationic AMP (CAMP) LL-37 was able to interact with Francisella cytoplasmic acyl carrier protein (AcpP; FTN1340/FTT1376). Further study confirmed that LL-37 peptide could bind to AcpP and that the sheep cathelicidin SMAP-29 (Sheep Myeloid Antimicrobial Peptide 29) further increased LL-37 binding to AcpP, suggesting a synergistic effect of SMAP-29 on the binding. LL-37 could also bind to both AcpP of Escherichia coli and Bacillus anthracis, implying a mechanism of broad action of LL-37-AcpP binding. Overexpression of the acpP gene in F. novicida led to an increase in LL-37 susceptibility. LL-37 binding to AcpP changed the fatty acid composition profiles. Taken together, we identified a novel cytoplasmic target of LL-37 in Francisella, suggesting a mechanism of action of this peptide beyond membrane permeabilization. Our findings highlight a novel mechanism of antimicrobial activity of this peptide and document a previously unexplored target of α-helical CAMPs.

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