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Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
Vol. 1861, 2017, Pages: 2155-2164

Insights into the anticancer properties of the first antimicrobial peptide from Archaea

RosaGaglione, LucianoPirone, BiancamariaFarina, SalvatoreFusco, GiovanniSmaldone, MartinaAulitto, ElianaDell'Olmo, EmanuelaRoscetto, AnnaritaDel Gatto, RobertoFattorusso, EugenioNotomista, LauraZaccaro, AngelaArciello, EmiliaPedone, PatriziaContursi

Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, 80126 Naples, Italy.



The peptide VLL-28, identified in the sequence of an archaeal protein, the transcription factor Stf76 from Sulfolobus islandicus, was previously identified and characterized as an antimicrobial peptide, possessing a broad-spectrum antibacterial activity.


Through a combined approach of NMR and Circular Dichroism spectroscopy, Dynamic Light Scattering, confocal microscopy and cell viability assays, the interaction of VLL-28 with the membranes of both parental and malignant cell lines has been characterized and peptide mechanism of action has been studied.


It is here demonstrated that VLL-28 selectively exerts cytotoxic activity against murine and human tumor cells. By means of structural methodologies, VLL-28 interaction with the membranes has been proven and the binding residues have been identified. Confocal microscopy data show that VLL-28 is internalized only into tumor cells. Finally, it is shown that cell death is mainly caused by a time-dependent activation of apoptotic pathways.


VLL-28, deriving from the archaeal kingdom, is here found to be endowed with selective cytotoxic activity towards both murine and human cancer cells and consequently can be classified as an ACP.

General significance

VLL-28 represents the first ACP identified in an archaeal microorganism, exerting a trans-kingdom activity.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Antimicrobial peptide, Anticancer peptide, Sulfolobus, Archaea, Peptide-membrane interactions.

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