Zoologisches Institut, Zoophysiologie

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Ancient weapons ? cytolytic and antimicrobial polypeptides as defence effector molecules of animals
Antimicrobial systems in animals have been characterized at the molecular level primarily for vertebrates and arthropods. A variety of active peptides have been found and they possess highly diverse structures. The majority of them share the common feature of amphipathicity and appear to act by physical disruption of the membranes of their targets. As the mode of action suggests that their application will not create resistant strains of pathogens, such peptides are currently used as natural templates to design new antibiotics.
Among the several groups of membrane-permeabilizing peptides classified so far, the one to which the subjects of our studies belong is extraordinary; its members are relatively large polypeptides and are characterized by a compact alpha-helical and disulfide-bonded fold. Such polypeptides can be found in species of amoeboid protozoa (e.g. amoebapores), organismswhich may be viewed primarily as insatiable phagocytic cells that uses bacteria as a nutrient source, in invertebrates and in vertebrates. Porcine and human cytotoxic lymphocytes contain similar peptides, termed NK-lysin and granulysin, respectively, which appear to be an important constituents of the internal defence against pathogens, e.g. intracellular bacteria. We are comparing the structures of the various antimicrobial and/or cytotoxic polypeptides and monitor their biological activities to extract the similarities and differences of effector molecules from evolutionarily highly divergent animals.

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Molekulare Neurobiologie, Neuropharmakologie und -toxikologie

Am Botanischen Garten 1-9
24089 Kiel

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Heidrun Wegner

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