A study of host defence peptide β-defensin 3 in primates

Michele Boniotto, Nikolinka Antcheva, Igor Zelezetsky, Alessandro Tossi, Valeria Palumbo, Maria Vittoria Verga Falzacappa, Silvia Sgubin, Laura Braida, Antonio Amoroso, Sergio Crovella

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We have investigated the molecular evolution of the gene coding for β-defensin 3 (DEFB103) in 17 primate species including humans. Unlike the DEFB4 genes (coding for β-defensin 2) [Boniotto, Tossi, Del Pero, Sgubin, Antcheva, Santon and Masters (2003) Genes Immun. 4, 251-257], DEFB103 shows a marked degree of conservation in humans, Great Apes and New and Old World monkeys. Only the Hylobates concolor defensin hcBD3 showed an amino acid variation Arg17→Trp17 that could have a functional implication, as it disrupts an intramolecular salt bridge with Glu 27, which locally decreases the charge and may favour dimerization in the human congener hBD3. This is thought to involve the formation of an intermolecular salt bridge between Glu28 and Lys32 on another monomer [Schibli, Hunter, Aseyev, Starner, Wiencek, McCray, Tack and Vogel (2002) J. Biol. Chem. 277, 8279-8289]. To test the role of dimerization in mediating biological activity, we synthesized hBD3, hcBD3 and an artificial peptide in which the Lys26-Glu27-Glu28 stretch was replaced by the equivalent Phe-Thr-Lys stretch from human β-defensin 1 and we characterized their structure and anti-microbial activity. Although the structuring and dimerization of these peptides were found to differ significantly, this did not appear to affect markedly the anti-microbial potency, the broad spectrum of activity or the insensitivity of the anti-microbial action to the salinity of the medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 15 2003


  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-microbial peptide
  • Innate immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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