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Science. 2010 May 28;328(5982):1168-72. doi: 10.1126/science.1185723.

Plectasin, a fungal defensin, targets the bacterial cell wall precursor Lipid II.

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Pharmaceutical Microbiology Section, Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology, and Parasitology, University of Bonn, D-53115 Bonn, Germany.


Host defense peptides such as defensins are components of innate immunity and have retained antibiotic activity throughout evolution. Their activity is thought to be due to amphipathic structures, which enable binding and disruption of microbial cytoplasmic membranes. Contrary to this, we show that plectasin, a fungal defensin, acts by directly binding the bacterial cell-wall precursor Lipid II. A wide range of genetic and biochemical approaches identify cell-wall biosynthesis as the pathway targeted by plectasin. In vitro assays for cell-wall synthesis identified Lipid II as the specific cellular target. Consistently, binding studies confirmed the formation of an equimolar stoichiometric complex between Lipid II and plectasin. Furthermore, key residues in plectasin involved in complex formation were identified using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and computational modeling.

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