A 32-residue peptide, named dermatoxin, has been extracted from the skin of a single specimen of the tree frog Phyllomedusa bicolor, and purified to homogeneity using a four-step protocol. Mass spectral analysis and sequencing of the purified peptide, as well as chemical synthesis and cDNA analysis were consistent with the structure: SLGSFLKGVGTTLASVGKVVSDQF GKLLQAGQ. This peptide proved to be bactericidal towards mollicutes (wall-less eubacteria) and Gram-positive eubacteria, and also, though to a lesser extent, towards Gram-negative eubacteria. Measurement of the bacterial membrane potential revealed that the plasma membrane is the primary target of dermatoxin. Observation of bacterial cells using reflected light fluorescence microscopy after DNA-staining was consistent with a mechanism of cell killing based upon the alteration of membrane permeability rather than membrane solubilization, very likely by forming ion-conducting channels through the plasma membrane. CD spectroscopy and secondary structure predictions indicated that dermatoxin assumes an amphipathic alpha-helical conformation in low polarity media which mimic the lipophilicity of the membrane of target microorganisms. PCR analysis coupled with cDNA cloning and sequencing revealed that dermatoxin is expressed in the skin, the intestine and the brain. Preprodermatoxin from the brain and the intestine have the same sequence as the skin preproform except for two amino-acid substitutions in the preproregion of the brain precursor. The dermatoxin precursor displayed the characteristic features of preprodermaseptins, a family of peptide precursors found in the skin of Phyllomedusa ssp. Precursors of this family have a common N-terminal preproregion followed by markedly different C-terminal domains that give rise to 19-34-residue peptide antibiotics named dermaseptins B and phylloxin, and to the D-amino-acid-containing opioid heptapeptides dermorphins and deltorphins. Because the structures and cidal mechanisms of dermatoxin, dermaseptins B and phylloxin are very different, dermatoxin extends the repertoire of structurally and functionally diverse peptides derived from the rapidly evolving C-terminal domains of precursors of the dermaseptins family.