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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43036. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043036. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Molecular characterization of antimicrobial peptide genes of the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus.

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Department of Microbiology, Biocentre, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


The production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a major defense mechanism against pathogen infestation and of particular importance for insects relying exclusively on an innate immune system. Here, we report on the characterization of three AMPs from the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus. Due to sequence similarities and amino acid composition these peptides can be classified into the cysteine-rich (e.g. defensin) and glycine-rich (e.g. hymenoptaecin) AMP groups, respectively. The gene and cDNA sequences of these AMPs were established and their expression was shown to be induced by microbial challenge. We characterized two different defensin genes. The defensin-2 gene has a single intron, whereas the defensin-1 gene has two introns. The deduced amino acid sequence of the C. floridanus defensins is very similar to other known ant defensins with the exception of a short C-terminal extension of defensin-1. The hymenoptaecin gene has a single intron and a very peculiar domain structure. The corresponding precursor protein consists of a signal- and a pro-sequence followed by a hymenoptaecin-like domain and six directly repeated hymenoptaecin domains. Each of the hymenoptaecin domains is flanked by an EAEP-spacer sequence and a RR-site known to be a proteolytic processing site. Thus, proteolytic processing of the multipeptide precursor may generate several mature AMPs leading to an amplification of the immune response. Bioinformatical analyses revealed the presence of hymenoptaecin genes with similar multipeptide precursor structure in genomes of other ant species suggesting an evolutionary conserved important role of this gene in ant immunity.

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