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Biochemistry. 2008 Mar 18;47(11):3544-55. doi: 10.1021/bi702065b. Epub 2008 Feb 23.

Eosinophil cationic protein high-affinity binding to bacteria-wall lipopolysaccharides and peptidoglycans.

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Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Valles, Spain.


The eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) is an eosinophil-secreted RNase involved in the immune host defense, with a cytotoxic activity against a wide range of pathogens. The protein displays antimicrobial activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive strains. The protein can destabilize lipid bilayers, although the action at the membrane level can only partially account for its bactericidal activity. We have now shown that ECP can bind with high affinity to the bacteria-wall components. We have analyzed its specific association to lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), its lipid A component, and peptidoglycans (PGNs). ECP high-affinity binding capacity to LPSs and lipid A has been analyzed by a fluorescent displacement assay, and the corresponding dissociation constants were calculated using the protein labeled with a fluorophor. The protein also binds in vivo to bacteria cells. Ultrastructural analysis of cell bacteria wall and morphology have been visualized by scanning and transmission electron microscopy in both Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus strains. The protein damages the bacteria surface and induces the cell population aggregation on E. coli cultures. Although both bacteria strain cells retain their shape and no cell lysis is patent, the protein can induce in E. coli the outer membrane detachment. ECP also activates the cytoplasmic membrane depolarization in both strains. Moreover, the depolarization activity on E. coli does not require any pretreatment to overcome the outer membrane barrier. The protein binding to the bacteria-wall surface would represent a first encounter step key in its antimicrobial mechanism of action.

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