R I Lehrer

Boston University, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (303)1800.16 Total impact

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  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Defensins are antimicrobial peptides that contribute broadly to innate immunity, including protection of mucosal tissues. Human α-defensin (HD) 6 is highly expressed by secretory Paneth cells of the small intestine. However, in contrast to the other defensins, it lacks appreciable bactericidal activity. Nevertheless, we report here that HD6 affords protection against invasion by enteric bacterial pathogens in vitro and in vivo. After stochastic binding to bacterial surface proteins, HD6 undergoes ordered self-assembly to form fibrils and nanonets that surround and entangle bacteria. This self-assembly mechanism occurs in vivo, requires histidine-27, and is consistent with x-ray crystallography data. These findings support a key role for HD6 in protecting the small intestine against invasion by diverse enteric pathogens and may explain the conservation of HD6 throughout Hominidae evolution.
    Science 06/2012; 337(6093):477-81. · 31.48 Impact Factor
  • Robert I Lehrer, Alex M Cole, Michael E Selsted
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    ABSTRACT: θ-Defensins, the only cyclic peptides of animal origin, have been isolated from the leukocytes of rhesus macaques and baboons. Their biogenesis is unusual because each peptide is an 18-residue chimera formed by the head-to-tail splicing of nonapeptides derived from two separate precursors. θ-Defensins have multiple arginines and a ladder-like tridisulfide array spanning their two antiparallel β-strands. Human θ-defensin genes contain a premature stop codon that prevents effective translation of the needed precursors; consequently, these peptides are not present in human leukocytes. Synthetic θ-defensins with sequences that correspond to those encoded within the human pseudogenes are called retrocyclins. Retrocyclin-1 inhibits the cellular entry of HIV-1, HSV, and influenza A virus. The rhesus θ-defensin RTD-1 protects mice from an experimental severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection, and retrocyclin-1 protects mice from infection by Bacillus anthracis spores. The small size, unique structure, and multiple host defense activities of θ-defensins make them intriguing potential therapeutic agents.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 06/2012; 287(32):27014-9. · 4.60 Impact Factor
  • American Thoracic Society 2012 International Conference, May 18-23, 2012 • San Francisco, California; 05/2012
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    ABSTRACT: θ-Defensins are cyclic octadecapeptides found in nonhuman primates whose broad antiviral spectrum includes HIV-1, HSV-1, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, and influenza A virus (IAV). We previously reported that synthetic θ-defensins called retrocyclins can neutralize and aggregate various strains of IAV and increase IAV uptake by neutrophils. This study describes two families of peptides, hapivirins and diprovirins, whose design was inspired by retrocyclins. The goal was to develop smaller partially cyclic peptides that retain the antiviral activity of retrocyclins, while being easier to synthesize. The novel peptides also allowed for systemic substitution of key residues to evaluate the role of charge or hydrophobicity on antiviral activity. Seventy-two hapivirin or diprovirin peptides are described in this work, including several whose anti-IAV activity equals or exceeds that of normal α- or θ-defensins. Some of these also had strong antibacterial and antifungal activity. These new peptides were active against H3N2 and H1N1 strains of IAV. Structural features imparting strong antiviral activity were identified through iterative cycles of synthesis and testing. Our findings show the importance of hydrophobic residues for antiviral activity and show that pegylation, which often increases a peptide's serum t(1/2) in vivo, can increase the antiviral activity of DpVs. The new peptides acted at an early phase of viral infection, and, when combined with pulmonary surfactant protein D, their antiviral effects were additive. The peptides strongly increased neutrophil and macrophage uptake of IAV, while inhibiting monocyte cytokine generation. Development of modified θ-defensin analogs provides an approach for creating novel antiviral agents for IAV infections.
    The Journal of Immunology 03/2012; 188(6):2759-68. · 5.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human myeloid α-defensins called HNPs play multiple roles in innate host defense. The Trp-26 residue of HNP1 was previously shown to contribute importantly to its ability to kill S. aureus, inhibit anthrax lethal factor (LF), bind gp120 of HIV-1, dimerize, and undergo further self-association. To gain additional insights into the functional significance of dimerization, we compared wild type HNP1 to dimerization-impaired, N-methylated HNP1 monomers and to disulfide-tethered obligate HNP1 dimers. The structural effects of these modifications were confirmed by x-ray crystallographic analyses. Like the previously studied W26A mutation, N-methylation of Ile-20 dramatically reduced the ability of HNP1 to kill Staphylococcus aureus, inhibit LF, and bind gp120. Importantly, this modification had minimal effect on the ability of HNP1 to kill Escherichia coli. The W26A and MeIle-20 mutations impaired defensin activity synergistically. N-terminal covalent tethering rescued the ability of W26A-HNP1 to inhibit LF but failed to restore its defective killing of S. aureus. Surface plasmon resonance studies revealed that Trp-26 mediated the association of monomers and canonical dimers of HNP1 to immobilized HNP1, LF, and gp120, and also indicated a possible mode of tetramerization of HNP1 mediated by Ile-20 and Leu-25. This study demonstrates that dimerization contributes to some but not all of the many and varied activities of HNP1.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/2012; 287(12):8944-53. · 4.60 Impact Factor
  • Robert I Lehrer, Wuyuan Lu
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    ABSTRACT: Defensins are small, multifunctional cationic peptides. They typically contain six conserved cysteines whose three intramolecular disulfides stabilize a largely β-sheet structure. This review of human α-defensins begins by describing their evolution, including their likely relationship to the Big Defensins of invertebrates, and their kinship to the β-defensin peptides of many if not all vertebrates, and the θ-defensins found in certain non-human primates. We provide a short history of the search for leukocyte-derived microbicidal molecules, emphasizing the roles played by luck (good), preconceived notions (mostly bad), and proper timing (essential). The antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxic, and binding properties of human α-defensins are summarized. The structural features of α-defensins are described extensively and their functional contributions are assessed. The properties of HD6, an enigmatic Paneth cell α-defensin, are contrasted with those of the four myeloid α-defensins (HNP1-4) and of HD5, the other α-defensin of human Paneth cells. The review ends with a decalogue that may assist researchers or students interested in α-defensins and related aspects of neutrophil function.
    Immunological Reviews 01/2012; 245(1):84-112. · 12.91 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):89-. · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Peptides of the innate immune system provide intriguing templates for designing novel antiviral molecules. θ-defensins are nonhuman primate peptides with broad-spectrum antiviral activities. The activity of these compounds is mediated through interference with viral fusion, and this activity is based upon key structural features. However, two major limitations to their clinical use hampered their development as potential antivirals, namely difficult multi-step synthesis for their production with low final yield of desired product (~5%), and unfavorable pharmacokinetics (rapid enzymatic degradation and/or renal clearance). Recently we designed and screened two sub-libraries of new peptide-based entry inhibitors mimicking the structure of humanized θ-defensins, designated as Hapivirins (HpVs) and Diprovirins (DpVs). Although the new peptides are smaller (13-residues) and structurally more simple than retrocyclins, several retained their ability to protect cells from infection by HIV-1 and HSV-2. The most active compound, DpV16, was chosen for a second round of modifications based on (1) its potent antiviral activity (2) its ease of synthesis, and (3) the low cost of production. Subsequently, we created a library of a second generation DpV-analogues with enhanced properties. Collectively, our findings to date suggest that simplified θ-defensins are suitable candidates for further modifications to obtain analogues with clinically favorable pharmacokinetics that may be produced in large quantities using a standard chemical approach. Considering their small size, they could be used either topically (topical microbicides) and/or for systemic applications (entry inhibitors).
    International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics 12/2011; 17(4):325-336. · 0.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Retrocyclins are humanized versions of the -defensin peptides expressed by the leukocytes of several nonhuman primates. Previous studies, performed in serum-free media, determined that retrocyclins 1 (RC1) and RC2 could prevent successful germination of Bacillus anthracis spores, kill vegetative B. anthracis cells, and inactivate anthrax lethal factor. We now report that retrocyclins are extensively bound by components of native mouse, human, and fetal calf sera, that heat-inactivated sera show greatly enhanced retrocyclin binding, and that native and (especially) heat-inactivated sera greatly reduce the direct activities of retrocyclins against spores and vegetative cells of B. anthracis. Nevertheless, we also found that retrocyclins protected mice challenged in vivo by subcutaneous, intraperitoneal, or intranasal instillation of B. anthracis spores. Retrocyclin 1 bound extensively to B. anthracis spores and enhanced their phagocytosis and killing by murine RAW264.7 cells. Based on the assumption that spore-bound RC1 enters phagosomes by "piggyback phagocytosis," model calculations showed that the intraphagosomal concentration of RC1 would greatly exceed its extracellular concentration. Murine alveolar macrophages took up fluorescently labeled retrocyclin, suggesting that macrophages may also acquire extracellular RC1 directly. Overall, these data demonstrate that retrocyclins are effective in vivo against experimental murine anthrax infections and suggest that enhanced macrophage function contributes to this property.
    Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 09/2011; 55(9):4238-50. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lactobacillus iners is a common constituent of the human vaginal microbiota. This species was only recently characterized due to its fastidious growth requirements and has been hypothesized to play a role in the pathogenesis of bacterial vaginosis. Here we present the identification and molecular characterization of a protein toxin produced by L. iners. The L. iners genome encodes an open reading frame with significant primary sequence similarity to intermedilysin (ILY; 69.2% similarity) and vaginolysin (VLY; 68.4% similarity), the cholesterol-dependent cytolysins from Streptococcus intermedius and Gardnerella vaginalis, respectively. Clinical isolates of L. iners produce this protein, inerolysin (INY), during growth in vitro, as assessed by Western analysis. INY is a pore-forming toxin that is activated by reducing agents and inhibited by excess cholesterol. It is active across a pH range of 4.5 to 6.0 but is inactive at pH 7.4. At sublytic concentrations, INY activates p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and allows entry of fluorescent phalloidin into the cytoplasm of epithelial cells. Unlike VLY and ILY, which are human specific, INY is active against cells from a broad range of species. INY represents a new target for studies directed at understanding the role of L. iners in states of health and disease at the vaginal mucosal surface.
    Journal of bacteriology 03/2011; 193(5):1034-41. · 2.69 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 02/2011; 100. · 3.83 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 02/2011; 100(3). · 3.83 Impact Factor
  • Robert I Lehrer
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    ABSTRACT: The transformation of tadpole to frog and of caterpillar to butterfly are two of the more obvious examples of metamorphosis. But molecular shape-shifting may occur in each of us as part of our innate antibacterial defence system. See Letter p.419
    Nature 01/2011; 469(7330):309-10. · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular pathogen that infects a large diversity of host cells, including macrophages. To avoid the phagosome microbicidal environment, L. monocytogenes secretes a pore-forming toxin (listeriolysin O, LLO) that releases the bacterium into the cytoplasm. We hypothesized that the α-defensins (HNPs) and/or humanized θ-defensin (RC-1) peptides produced by human and non-human primate neutrophils, respectively, cooperate with macrophages to control L. monocytogenes infection. Our results establish that HNP-1 and RC-1 enable macrophages to control L. monocytogenes intracellular growth by inhibiting phagosomal escape, as a consequence, bacteria remain trapped in a LAMP-1-positive phagosome. Importantly, HNP-1 interaction with macrophages and RC-1 interaction with bacteria are required to prevent macrophage infection. In accordance with these results, RC-1 is a more potent anti-listerial peptide than HNP-1 and HNP-1 is acquired by macrophages and trafficked to the phagocytosed bacteria. Finally, HNP-1 and RC-1 antimicrobial activity is complemented by their ability to prevent LLO function through two mechanisms, blocking LLO-dependent perforation of macrophage membranes and the release of LLO from the bacteria. In conclusion, at the site of infection the cooperation between antimicrobial peptides, such as HNP-1, and macrophages likely plays a critical role in the innate immune defence against L. monocytogenes.
    Cellular Microbiology 12/2010; 13(4):635-51. · 4.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: RC-101 is a congener of the antiretroviral peptide retrocyclin, which we and others have reported is active against clinical HIV-1 isolates from all major clades, does not hemagglutinate, and is non-toxic and non-inflammatory in cervicovaginal cell culture. Herein, film-formulated RC-101 was assessed for its antiviral activity in vitro, safety in vivo, retention in the cervix and vagina, and ability to remain active against HIV-1 and SHIV after intravaginal application in macaques. RC-101 was formulated as a quick-dissolving film (2000 µg/film), retained complete activity in vitro as compared to unformulated peptide, and was applied intravaginally in six pigtailed macaques daily for four days. At one and four days following the final application, the presence of RC-101 was assessed in peripheral blood, cervicovaginal lavage, cytobrushed cervicovaginal cells, and biopsied cervical and vaginal tissues by quantitative western blots. One day following the last film application, cervical biopsies from RC-101-exposed and placebo-controlled macaques were collected and were subjected to challenge with RT-SHIV in an ex vivo organ culture model. RC-101 peptide was detected primarily in the cytobrush and biopsied cervical and vaginal tissues, with little to no peptide detected in lavage samples, suggesting that the peptide was associated with the cervicovaginal epithelia. RC-101 remained in the tissues and cytobrush samples up to four days post-application, yet was not detected in any sera or plasma samples. RC-101, extracted from cytobrushes obtained one day post-application, remained active against HIV-1 BaL. Importantly, cervical biopsies from RC-101-treated animals reduced RT-SHIV replication in ex vivo organ culture as compared to placebo-treated animals. Formulated RC-101 was stable in vivo and was retained in the mucosa. The presence of antivirally active RC-101 after five days in vivo suggests that RC-101 would be an important molecule to develop further as a topical microbicide to prevent HIV-1 transmission.
    PLoS ONE 11/2010; 5(11):e15111. · 3.53 Impact Factor
    This article is viewable in ResearchGate's enriched format
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    ABSTRACT: Protegrins are broad spectrum antibiotic peptides isolated from porcine leukocytes. In this study, we (i) examine the sensitivity of Gram-negative, anaerobic periodontal pathogens to synthetic protegrins; (ii) determine the relative potencies of protegrin congeners against these bacteria; and (iii) compare the potency of protegrins with other antibiotic peptides, including magainin MSI-78, tachyplesin I, cecropin P1, human defensins HNP-1-3, and clavanin A. Synthetic l- and d-enantiomers of protegrin 1 (PG-1 and D-PG-1, respectively), and L-enantiomers of protegrins 2, 3 and 5 (PG-2, PG-3 and PG-5) were tested against Fusobacteriurn nucleatum, and black-pigmented organisms including Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia. Strains of both F. nucleatum and the black-pigmented organisms were sensitive to PG-1, and exhibited mean ED99 of 2.2-2.3 μg/ml and 3.4-9.9 μg/ml, respectively. The D-form was statistically more potent than the L-form against these oral anaerobes, and although this difference in potency is unlikely to be of decisive therapeutic significance, the d-form may be of value given ability to resist microbial and host-derived proteases. PG-1 was more potent than magainin, tachyplesin, cecropin, defensins and clavanin under test conditions. Hypertonic saIt concentrations and heat-inactivated serum were found to be inhibitory to the bactericidal activity of PG-1. PG-1 was found to induce morphologic alterations in the ultrastructural appearance of F. nucleatum consistent with damage to the bacterial membranes. We conclude that protegrins may be useful antimicrobial agents in therapy against Gram-negative anaerobic bacteria believed to be involved in chronic, adult forms of periodontal infections.
    Journal of Periodontal Research 06/2010; 33(2):91 - 98. · 2.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many gram-positive bacteria produce pore-forming exotoxins that contain a highly conserved, 12-residue domain (ECTGLAWEWWRT) that binds cholesterol. This domain is usually flanked N-terminally by arginine and C-terminally by valine. We used this 14-residue sequence as a template to create a small library of peptides that bind cholesterol and other lipids. Several of these peptides manifested anti-inflammatory properties in a predictive in vitro monocyte chemotactic assay, and some also diminished the pro-inflammatory effects of low-density lipoprotein in apoE-deficient mice. The most potent analog, Oxpholipin-11D (OxP-11D), contained D-amino acids exclusively and was identical to the 14-residue design template except that diphenylalanine replaced cysteine-3. In surface plasmon resonance binding studies, OxP-11D bound oxidized (phospho)lipids and sterols in much the same manner as D-4F, a widely studied cardioprotective apoA-I-mimetic peptide with anti-inflammatory properties. In contrast to D-4F, which adopts a stable alpha-helical structure in solution, the OxP-11D structure was flexible and contained multiple turn-like features. Given the substantial evidence that oxidized phospholipids are pro-inflammatory in vivo, OxP-11D and other Oxpholipins may have therapeutic potential.
    PLoS ONE 04/2010; 5(4):e10181. · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Robert I. Lehrer, Tomas Ganz
    Topley and Wilson's Microbiology and Microbial Infections, 03/2010; , ISBN: 9780470688618
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    ABSTRACT: We performed a comprehensive alanine scan of human alpha-defensin HNP1 and tested the ability of the resulting analogs to kill Staphylococcus aureus, inhibit anthrax lethal factor, and bind human immunodeficiency virus-1 gp120. By far, the most deleterious mutation for all of these functions was W26A. The activities lost by W26A-HNP1 were restored progressively by replacing W26 with non-coded, straight-chain aliphatic amino acids of increasing chain length. The hydrophobicity of residue 26 also correlated with the ability of the analogs to bind immobilized wild type HNP1 and to undergo further self-association. Thus, the hydrophobicity of residue 26 is not only a key determinant of the direct interactions of HNP1 with target molecules, but it also governs the ability of this peptide to form dimers and more complex quaternary structures at micromolar concentrations. Although all defensin peptides are cationic, their amphipathicity is at least as important as their positive charge in enabling them to participate in innate host defense.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 03/2010; 285(21):16275-85. · 4.60 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

22k Citations
1,800.16 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2012
    • Boston University
      • Department of Medicine
      Boston, MA, United States
  • 2005–2012
    • University of Maryland, Baltimore
      • Institute of Human Virology
      Baltimore, MD, United States
  • 1978–2012
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • • Molecular Biology Institute
      • • Department of Medicine
      • • Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
      Los Angeles, California, United States
  • 2004–2009
    • University of Central Florida
      • • Graduate Program in Molecular Biology and Microbiology
      • • Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences
      Orlando, FL, United States
  • 2001–2008
    • Iowa State University
      • Department of Chemistry
      Ames, IA, United States
    • Saint Petersburg State University
      Sankt-Peterburg, St.-Petersburg, Russia
  • 2007
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
      Madison, MS, United States
  • 2004–2007
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
      • • Influenza Division
      • • National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
      Атланта, Michigan, United States
  • 2006
    • University of Chicago
      • James Franck Institute
      Chicago, IL, United States
  • 2003–2005
    • Mount Sinai School of Medicine
      • Department of Pediatrics
      Manhattan, NY, United States
    • University of California, San Diego
      San Diego, California, United States
    • National University (California)
      San Diego, California, United States
    • University of Leeds
      • School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering
      Leeds, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 1999–2003
    • Rice University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Houston, TX, United States
    • Roche Institute of Molecular Biology
      Nutley, New Jersey, United States
  • 1995–2003
    • Children's Hospital Los Angeles
      • Division of Hospital Medicine
      Los Angeles, California, United States
  • 1984–2003
    • Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
      • Department of Medicine
      Torrance, California, United States
  • 2002
    • Ruhr-Universität Bochum
      Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
    • Jules Stein Eye Institute
      Maryland, United States
    • Hoseo University
      Onyang, South Chungcheong, South Korea
  • 1998
    • University of British Columbia - Vancouver
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 1997
    • Austrian Academy of Sciences
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 1993
    • Leiden University Medical Centre
      • Department of Infectious Diseases
      Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 1992–1993
    • University of California, Davis
      • School of Veterinary Medicine
      Davis, CA, United States
  • 1969–1971
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • Division of Hospital Medicine
      San Francisco, California, United States