Expression of a Plant-Derived Peptide Harboring Water-Cleaning and Antimicrobial Activities

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2003 Jan 5;81(1):13-20. doi: 10.1002/bit.10550.


Drinking water is currently a scarce world resource, the preparation of which requires complex treatments that include clarification of suspended particles and disinfection. Seed extracts of Moringa oleifera Lam., a tropical tree, have been proposed as an environment-friendly alternative, due to their traditional use for the clarification of drinking water. However, the precise nature of the active components of the extract and whether they may be produced in recombinant form are unknown. Here we show that recombinant or synthetic forms of a cationic seed polypeptide mediate efficient sedimentation of suspended mineral particles and bacteria. Unexpectedly, the polypeptide was also found to possesses a bactericidal activity capable of disinfecting heavily contaminated water. Furthermore, the polypeptide has been shown to efficiently kill several pathogenic bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant isolates of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Legionella species. Thus, this polypeptide displays the unprecedented feature of combining water purification and disinfectant properties. Identification of an active principle derived from the seed extracts points to a range of potential for drinking water treatment or skin and mucosal disinfection in clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Disinfection
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Plant Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Water