Antimicrobial peptides from Phyllomedusa frogs: from biomolecular diversity to potential nanotechnologic medical applications

Amino Acids. 2011 Jan;40(1):29-49. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0622-3. Epub 2010 Jun 5.


Screening for new bioactive peptides in South American anurans has been pioneered in frogs of the genus Phyllomedusa. All frogs of this genus have venomous skin secretions, i.e., a complex mixture of bioactive peptides against potential predators and pathogens that presumably evolved in a scenario of predator-prey interaction and defense against microbial invasion. For every new anuran species studied new peptides are found, with homologies to hormones, neurotransmitters, antimicrobials, and several other peptides with unknown biological activity. From Vittorio Erspamer findings, this genus has been reported as a "treasure store" of bioactive peptides, and several groups focus their research on these species. From 1966 to 2009, more than 200 peptide sequences from different Phyllomedusa species were deposited in UniProt and other databases. During the last decade, the emergence of high-throughput molecular technologies involving de novo peptide sequencing via tandem mass spectrometry, cDNA cloning, pharmacological screening, and surface plasmon resonance applied to peptide discovery, led to fast structural data acquisition and the generation of peptide molecular libraries. Research groups on bioactive peptides in Brazil using these new technologies, accounted for the exponential increase of new molecules described in the last decade, much higher than in any previous decades. Recently, these secretions were also reported as a rich source of multiple antimicrobial peptides effective against multidrug resistant strains of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and virus, providing instructive lessons for the development of new and more efficient nanotechnological-based therapies for infectious diseases treatment. Therefore, novel drugs arising from the identification and analysis of bioactive peptides from South American anuran biodiversity have a promising future role on nanobiotechnology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amphibian Venoms / chemistry*
  • Amphibian Venoms / metabolism
  • Amphibian Venoms / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Anura / classification
  • Anura / metabolism*
  • Drug Therapy
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Amphibian Venoms
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides