Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small molecule peptides that exhibit broad-spectrum and high-efficiency antibacterial activity. They are a major threat to global public health, and there is an urgent need to find effective, antimicrobial treatments that can be well tolerated by humans. Hornet venom is known to have antimicrobial properties, and contains peptides with similarity to known antimicrobial eptides (AMPs), mastoparans.
In a study published in Toxicon, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) identified five new mastoparan peptides from hornet venom.
The researchers searched for novel AMPs in the venoms of V. ducalis, V. mandarinia and V. affinis and tested their antimicrobial effects, examined their toxicity to mammalian cells, and explored the toxicity mechanism of the most promising AMP.
They used cDNA cloning and mastoparan primers and identified five new AMPs from the venom glands of Vespa ducalis (U-VVTX-Vm1a, U-VVTX-Vm1b, and U-VVTX-Vm1c), Vespa mandarinia (U-VVTX-Vm1d), and Vespa affinis (U-VVTX-Vm1e). All of those AMPs have highly similar sequences and are related to the toxic peptide, mastoparan.
The newly identified AMPs have α-helical structures, are amphiphilic, and have antimicrobial properties. None of the five AMPs exhibited strong toxicity as measured via their hemolytic activity on red blood cells. U-VVTX-Vm1b and U-VVTX-Vm1e exhibited excellent antibacterial effect against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. All of five new mastoparan peptides showed membrane rupture mechanism and low hemolytic activities.
“The search for AMPs in wasp and hornet venom has practical benefits for developing new antibacterial treatments, particularly against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, and potential for new anti-cancer treatments,” said TAN Ken, principal investigator of the study.
TAN Ken Ph.D Principal Investigator
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China