Cells of the hybrid striped bass fight fungal infection with peptides that punch hydrophilic holes in the cell membranes of the infectious microorganism.

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Advanced lifeforms have faced the onslaught of parasitic microbial life for billions of years and have evolved numerous tools to prevent attack. Many fish, in particular, have diverse and highly developed protein strategies to fight infection. Some of these, including piscidin-2 found in hybrid striped bass, are effective against pathogenic fungi. They are thought to act by creating channels in the cell membrane allowing cell contents escape.

Piscidin-2 opening channels in cell membrane of a fungal species. Artist: Emily Harrington. Copyright: All rights reserved. See gallery for details.

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"All eukaryotic organisms, single-celled or multi-cellular, produce a diverse array of natural anti-infective agents that, in addition to conventional antimicrobial peptides, also include proteins and other molecules often not regarded as part of the innate defences. Examples range from histones, fatty acids, and other structural components of cells to pigments and regulatory proteins." (Smith et al. 2010:1213)

"Piscidins are 22-residue peptides first purified from skin and gills of hybrid striped bass...All piscidins show broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity...Recently, piscidin-2 has been found to cause cell membrane damage to three fungal strains known to cause infections in humans." (Smith et al. 2010:1219)

"[O]rganisms express a very wide range of compounds including not only conventional, (i.e., 'dedicated') antimicrobial peptides within the immune system but also a large array of proteins, protein fragments, lipoproteins, glycoproteins or other factors that have, or are derived from, compounds with other primary biological functions. The sheer number of different types expressed even within a single species is quite remarkable." (Smith et al. 2010:1240)

Journal article
Conventional and Unconventional Antimicrobials from Fish, Marine Invertebrates and Micro-algaeMarine DrugsApril 15, 2010
Valerie J. Smith, Andrew P. Desbois, Elisabeth A. Dyrynda

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