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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2003 Dec 5;1624(1-3):125-30.

Antibacterial activity and mechanism of action of tick defensin against Gram-positive bacteria.

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Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Tsukuba 305-8572, Japan.


Defensins are a major group of antimicrobial peptides and are found widely in vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Invertebrate defensins have been identified from insects, scorpions, mussels and ticks. In this study, chemically synthesized tick defensin was used to further investigate the activity spectrum and mode of action of natural tick defensin. Synthetic tick defensin showed antibacterial activity against many Gram-positive bacteria but not Gram-negative bacteria and low hemolytic activity, characteristic of invertebrate defensins. Furthermore, bactericidal activity against pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria including Bacillus cereus, Enterococcus faecalis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was observed. However, more than 30 min was necessary for tick defensin to completely kill bacteria. The interaction of tick defensin with the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane and its ability to disrupt the membrane potential was analyzed. Tick defensin was able to disrupt the membrane potential over a period of 30-60 min consistent with its relatively slow killing. Transmission electron microscopy of Micrococcus luteus treated with tick defensin showed lysis of the cytoplasmic membrane and leakage of cellular cytoplasmic contents. These findings suggest that the primary mechanism of action of tick defensin is bacterial cytoplasmic membrane lysis. In addition, incomplete cell division with multiple cross-wall formation was occasionally seen in tick defensin-treated bacteria showing pleiotropic secondary effects of tick defensin.

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