Two defensins showing high mutual similarity have previously been characterized in honeybee Apis mellifera: royalisin, a peptide isolated from the royal jelly, and defensin, found in the hemolymph of bacterially infected bees. Here we show that both these peptides are encoded by the same polymorphic gene, which we termed defensin1. Besides this gene, we identified an additional defensin gene coding for a novel honeybee defensin designated defensin2. The pre-pro-peptide sequence of defensin 2 was inferred from its cDNA. Mature defensin 2 peptide shows 55.8% identity with defensin 1. Sequences of genomic loci of the two defensin genes revealed their different structure. Defensin1 possesses an exon-intron structure unique among arthropoda defensin genes. Its second intron splits exactly the common structural module of defensins from a short amidated C-terminal extension found only in hymenopteran defensins. Transcription of defensin genes in some nurse honeybees tissues was studied by RT-PCR. Both defensins are expressed in heads and thoraces. Defensin1 but not defensin2 mRNA was detected in hyphopharyngeal, mandibular and thoracic salivary glands. Immune response elements were identified by computer analysis of the promoter regions of defensin genes. Their different representation in these genes reflects presumably observed tissue-specific expression of defensins.