Human neutrophil lysosomal cathepsin G (cat G) exerts broad-spectrum antibacterial action in vitro against Gram-negative and -positive bacteria independent of its serine protease activity. We recently determined that an internal peptide of cat G (HPQYNQR), obtained after digestion of cat G with clostripain, possessed broad-spectrum antibacterial action in vitro, displaying an ED50 of 5 x 10(-5) M. In order to evaluate the structure-antibacterial properties of this peptide, synthetic variants with single alanine substitutions at each position were prepared and tested for antibacterial action. We found that alanine substitution for His-1 or Tyr-4, or certain modifications of the His-1 side chain, produced nonbactericidal peptides. A hexapeptide lacking the COOH-terminal Arg-7 but not a pentapeptide lacking both Gln-6 and Arg-7 possessed in vitro bactericidal activity. Interestingly, the cat G bactericidal peptide displays similarity to sequences within other serine proteases, notably the proposed cytotoxic granzymes present in the cytolytic granules of human and mouse cytotoxic T lymphocytes. We now report that an internal peptide of one human granzyme (granzyme B) with the sequence of HPAYNPK also displays bactericidal action in vitro. Our results suggest that an internal antibacterial domain among human serine proteases cat G and granzyme B has been functionally conserved through evolution perhaps for the purpose of host defense against microbial pathogens and targets of cytotoxic T lymphocyte killing.