Action of antimicrobial peptides against bacterial biofilms

Muhammad Yasir, Mark Duncan Perry Willcox*, Debarun Dutta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Microbes are known to colonize surfaces and form biofilms. These biofilms are communities of microbes encased in a self-produced matrix that often contains polysaccharides, DNA and proteins. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have been used to control the formation and to eradicate mature biofilms. Naturally occurring or synthetic antimicrobial peptides have been shown to prevent microbial colonization of surfaces, to kill bacteria in biofilms and to disrupt the biofilm structure. This review systemically analyzed published data since 1970 to summarize the possible anti-biofilm mechanisms of AMPs. One hundred and sixty-two published reports were initially selected for this review following searches using the criteria 'antimicrobial peptide' OR 'peptide' AND 'mechanism of action' AND 'biofilm' OR 'antibiofilm' in the databases PubMed; Scopus; Web of Science; MEDLINE; and Cochrane Library. Studies that investigated anti-biofilm activities without describing the possible mechanisms were removed from the analysis. A total of 17 original reports were included which have articulated the mechanism of antimicrobial action of AMPs against biofilms. The major anti-biofilm mechanisms of antimicrobial peptides are: (1) disruption or degradation of the membrane potential of biofilm embedded cells; (2) interruption of bacterial cell signaling systems; (3) degradation of the polysaccharide and biofilm matrix; (4) inhibition of the alarmone system to avoid the bacterial stringent response; (5) downregulation of genes responsible for biofilm formation and transportation of binding proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2468
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Biofilm
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanism of action
  • Medical devices


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