Medicinal Violets

Widespread resistance to antimicrobial and cancer therapeutics is evolving in every country worldwide and has a direct impact on global health, agriculture and the economy. The specificity and selectivity of bioactive peptide natural products present a possible stopgap measure to address the ongoing deficit of new therapeutic compounds.

PepSAVI-MS, Statistically-guided bioActive Peptides prioritized VIa Mass Spectrometry, is an adaptable method for the analysis of natural product libraries to rapidly identify bioactive peptides. This pipeline was validated via screening of the cyclotide-rich botanical species Viola odorata and identification of the known antimicrobial and anticancer cyclotide cycloviolacin O2.

In a widely collaborative work, published in Phytochemistry, researchers in the Hicks Group present and validate novel bioactivities of the anthelmintic Viola odorata cyclotide, cycloviolacin O8, cyO8, including micromolar anticancer activity against PC-3 prostate, MDA-MB-231 breast, and OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cell lines and antifungal activity against the agricultural pathogen Fusarium graminearum.

A reduction/alkylation strategy in tandem with PepSAVI-MS analysis also revealed several previously uncharacterized putatively bioactive cyclotides. Downstream implementation of ultraviolet photodissociation, UVPD, tandem mass spectrometry is demonstrated for cyO8 as a method to address traditionally difficult-to-sequence cyclotide species.

This work emphasizes the therapeutic and agricultural potential of natural product bioactive peptides and the necessity of developing robust analytical tools to deconvolute nature's complexity.