Two novel antimicrobial peptides were isolated and characterized from the roots of shepherd's purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris. These antimicrobial peptides, named shepherin I and shepherin II, consist of 28 and 38 amino acids, respectively, and are glycine- and histidine-rich peptides. Shepherin I and shepherin II have 67.9% and 65.8% (mol/mol) glycine, respectively, and 28.6% and 21.1% (mol/mol) histidine, respectively. Both shepherins have a Gly-Gly-His motif. These antimicrobial peptides exhibit antimicrobial activity against Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. Circular dichroism spectra of shepherin I and shepherin II showed that shepherin I and shepherin II in 50% trifluoroethanol have 66.7% and 75% random coils, respectively, without any alpha-helices. cDNA sequence analysis revealed that shepherin I and shepherin II are produced from a single polypeptide, designated shep-GRP, consisting of 120 amino acids; shep-GRP has five distinct domains, an amino-terminal putative signal peptide, a shepherin I, a linker dipeptide, a shepherin II and a carboxy-terminal peptide. Southern blot analysis indicates that the gene encoding shepherins belongs to a low-complexity gene family. Northern blot analysis revealed that transcripts of shep-GRP are present in roots but not in leaves and stems.