Antibacterial hemoglobin peptides in human menstrual blood

Peptides. 2004 Nov;25(11):1839-47. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2004.06.015.


This work documents that normal menstrual vaginal blood of healthy females is exceptionally rich in hemocidins--hemoglobin (Hb) fragments having bactericidal properties. The peptide fractions were isolated from the plasma of vaginal discharge of three healthy nulliparous women and subjected to identification by automatic sequencing as well as by mass spectrometry. All 44 identified peptides originate from Hb (mainly from the N-terminal part of alpha-globin) and all demonstrated differential killing activity toward Escherichia coli. The screening of antimicrobial activity was performed using two synthetic peptides identical to those found in menstrual blood. These peptides were active mainly toward Gram-negative bacteria and to a less degree toward Gram-positive bacteria. Our results confirm recent observations that Hb-derived fragments manifest pronounced antibacterial activity and suggest that these peptides help in maintaining human vaginal homeostasis during physiologic menstrual bleeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / growth & development
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / growth & development
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Menstrual Cycle / blood*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Weight
  • Peptide Fragments / chemical synthesis
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / isolation & purification
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Hemoglobins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Peptides