Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Kerns, Robert J

First Committee Member

Duffel, Michael

Second Committee Member

Rice, Kevin

Third Committee Member

Doorn, Jonathan

Fourth Committee Member

Quinn, Daniel


Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) are an important component of the innate immune system and are instrumental in the elimination of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, yeast, fungi and cancerous cells from the body. CAPs are comprised of less than 100 amino acids and have a net positive charge due to a multitude of basic residues in their primary sequences. CAPs exert their antimicrobial activity primarily through the formation of pores in microbial membranes, but also play important immunostimulatory roles in the body. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are negatively charged, polydisperse linear polysaccharides found at cellular surfaces. Although many protein-binding interactions of the GAG family, including heparin and heparan sulfate, have been well-characterized, it is not known to what extent endogenous GAGs affect the innate immune system.

In the studies here the modulatory activities of GAGs and other polyanionic polysaccharides (PPSs) on CAPs were probed. Initial studies focused on interactions between a short peptide derived from bovine lactoferricin and GAGs. GAGs and other PPSs were then tested for their ability to modulate the antimicrobial activities of a number of CAPs against Gram-positive and -negative organisms. GAGs were also tested for the ability to modulate CAPs binding to bacterial lipopolysaccharide. CAP affinities for the GAGs were determined from lipopolysaccharide competition binding assays. Finally GAGs were evaluated for the ability to protect CAPs from proteolytic degradation. The modulatory activities of GAGs and other PPSs are largely dependent upon all components of the test system and, to a lesser extent, the charge of the molecule.


Cationic antimicrobial peptides, Glycosaminoglycans


xvii, 207 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 180-207).


Copyright 2010 Beth Ellen Miskimins Mills