Aggregation is a sequence-specific process, nucleated by short aggregation-prone regions (APRs) that can be exploited to induce aggregation of proteins containing the same APR.

Here, we find that most APRs are unique within a proteome, but that a small minority of APRs occur in many proteins. When aggregation is nucleated in bacteria by such frequently occurring APRs, it leads to massive and lethal inclusion body formation containing a large number of proteins. Buildup of bacterial resistance against these peptides is slow. In addition, the approach is effective against drug-resistant clinical isolates of Escherichia coli and Acinetobacter baumannii, reducing bacterial load in a murine bladder infection model. Our results indicate that redundant APRs are weak points of bacterial protein homeostasis and that targeting these may be an attractive antibacterial strategy.

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