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PLoS One. 2008 Sep 16;3(9):e3217. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003217.

Snake cathelicidin from Bungarus fasciatus is a potent peptide antibiotics.

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  • 1Biotoxin Units of Key Laboratory of Animal Models and Human Disease Mechanisms, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cathelicidins are a family of antimicrobial peptides acting as multifunctional effector molecules of innate immunity, which are firstly found in mammalians. Recently, several cathelicidins have also been found from chickens and fishes. No cathelicidins from other non-mammalian vertebrates have been reported.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

In this work, a cathelicidin-like antimicrobial peptide named cathelicidin-BF has been purified from the snake venoms of Bungarus fasciatus and its cDNA sequence was cloned from the cDNA library, which confirm the presence of cathelicidin in reptiles. As other cathelicidins, the precursor of cathelicidin-BF has cathelin-like domain at the N terminus and carry the mature cathelicidin-BF at the C terminus, but it has an atypical acidic fragment insertion between the cathelin-like domain and the C-terminus. The acidic fragment is similar to acidic domains of amphibian antimicrobial precursors. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the snake cathelicidin had the nearest evolution relationship with platypus cathelicidin. The secondary structure of cathelicidin-BF investigated by CD and NMR spectroscopy in the presence of the helicogenic solvent TFE is an amphipathic alpha-helical conformation as many other cathelicidins. The antimicrobial activities of cathelicidin BF against forty strains of microorganisms were tested. Cathelicidin-BF efficiently killed bacteria and some fungal species including clinically isolated drug-resistance microorganisms. It was especially active against Gram-negative bacteria. Furthermore, it could exert antimicrobial activity against some saprophytic fungus. No hemolytic and cytotoxic activity was observed at the dose of up to 400 microg/ml. Cathelicidin-BF could exist stably in the mice plasma for at least 2.5 hours.

CONCLUSION:

Discovery of snake cathelicidin with atypical structural and functional characterization offers new insights on the evolution of cathelicidins. Potent, broad spectrum, salt-independent antimicrobial activities make cathelicidin-BF an excellent candidate for clinical or agricultural antibiotics.

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