Background: Antibiotic residues can cause antibiotic resistance in livestock and their food safety-related issues have increased the consumer demand for products lacking these residues. Hence, developing safe and effective antibiotic alternatives is important to the animal feed industry. With their strong antibacterial actions, antimicrobial peptides have potential as antibiotic alternatives.
Results: We investigated the antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities and the mechanisms of action of an antimicrobial peptide. The hybrid antimicrobial peptide magainin II-cecropin B (Mag II-CB) gene was transformed into the medicinal Cordyceps militaris fungus. Recombinant Mag II-CB exhibited broad-spectrum antibacterial activity in vitro and its antibacterial and immunomodulatory functions were evaluated in BALB/c mice infected with Escherichia coli (ATCC 25922). Histologically, Mag II-CB ameliorated E. coli-related intestinal damage and maintained the integrity of the intestinal mucosal barrier by up-regulating tight junction proteins (zonula occludens-1, claudin-1 and occludin). The intestinal microbial flora was positively modulated in the Mag II-CB-treated mice infected with E. coli. Mag II-CB treatment also supported immune functioning in the mice by regulating their plasma immunoglobulin and ileum secreted immunoglobulin A levels, by attenuating their pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, and by elevating their anti-inflammatory cytokines levels. Moreover, directly feeding the infected mice with the C. militaris mycelium producing Mag II-CB further proofed the antibacterial and immunomodulatory functions of recombinant hybrid antimicrobial peptide.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that both purified recombinant AMPs and C. militaris mycelium producing AMPs display antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities in mice. And C. militaris producing AMPs has the potential to become a substitute to antibiotics as a feed additive for livestock in future.
Keywords: Cordyceps militaris; Escherichia coli (ATCC 25922); Feed additive; Hybrid antimicrobial peptide; Immunomodulatory; Recombinant expression.