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Br Poult Sci. 2008 Mar;49(2):133-43. doi: 10.1080/00071660802001722.

Antimicrobial activity of cuticle and outer eggshell protein extracts from three species of domestic birds.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


1. The eggshell cuticle is the proteinaceous outermost layer of the eggshell which regulates water exchange and protects against entry of micro-organisms. In this study, we investigated the hypothesis that the cuticle may also reduce microbial contamination by providing a chemical defence. 2. Outer eggshell and cuticle protein was extracted from domestic chicken (Gallus gallus), duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and goose (Anser anser) eggs by HCl and urea treatment, respectively. Antimicrobial activity of the extracts against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria was evaluated. 3. C-type lysozyme, ovotransferrin and ovocalyxin-32 were identified in all extracts by Western blotting. All extracts from all species demonstrated lysozyme enzymatic activity. Immobilised c-type lysozyme retained some enzymatic activity. Protein extracts demonstrated activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis suggesting the action of antimicrobial proteins in addition to lysozyme. 4. The results suggest that the antimicrobial outer eggshell and cuticle proteins present in a number of avian species may be a mechanism which enhances avian reproductive success.

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