Ultrashort Peptide Hydrogels Display Antimicrobial Activity and Enhance Angiogenic Growth Factor Release by Dental Pulp Stem/Stromal Cells

  • Afami Marina E
  • El Karim Ikhlas
  • About Imad
  • Coulter Sophie M
  • Laverty Garry
  • Lundy Fionnuala T

  • Antibacterial
  • Biocompatibility
  • Dental pulp
  • Oral pathogen
  • Secretome


Recent studies on peptide hydrogels have shown that ultrashort peptides (<8 amino acids) can self-assemble into hydrogels. Ultrashort peptides can be designed to incorporate antimicrobial motifs, such as positively charged lysine residues, so that the peptides have inherent antimicrobial characteristics. Antimicrobial hydrogels represent a step change in tissue engineering and merit further investigation, particularly in applications where microbial infection could compromise healing. Herein, we studied the biocompatibility of dental pulp stem/stromal cells (DPSCs) with an ultrashort peptide hydrogel, (naphthalene-2-ly)-acetyl-diphenylalanine-dilysine-OH (NapFFεKεK-OH), where the epsilon (ε) amino group forms part of the peptide bond rather than the standard amino grouping. We tested the antimicrobial properties of NapFFεKεK-OH in both solution and hydrogel form against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum and investigated the DPSC secretome in hydrogel culture. Our results showed NapFFεKεK-OH hydrogels were biocompatible with DPSCs. Peptides in solution form were efficacious against biofilms of S. aureus and E. faecalis, whereas hydrogels demonstrated antimicrobial activity against E. faecalis and F. nucleatum. Using an angiogenic array we showed that DPSCs encapsulated within NapFFεKεK-OH hydrogels produced an angiogenic secretome. These results suggest that NapFFεKεK-OH hydrogels have potential to serve as novel hydrogels in tissue engineering for cell-based pulp regeneration.