Sequence and specificity of two antibacterial proteins involved in insect immunity

Nature. 1981 Jul 16;292(5820):246-8. doi: 10.1038/292246a0.


Immune responses have been described for many different insect species. However, it is generally acknowledged that immune systems must therefore differ from those of vertebrates. An effective humoral immune response has been found in pupae of the cecropia moth, Hyalophora cecropia. The expression of this multicomponent system requires de novo synthesis of RNA and proteins and its broad antibacterial activity is due to at least three independent mechanisms, the most well known of which is the insect lysozyme. However, this enzyme is bactericidal for only a limited number of Gram-positive bacteria. WE recently purified and characterized P9A and P9B, which are two small, basic proteins with potent antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli and several other Gram-negative bacteria. We believe that P9A and P9B plays an important part in the humoral immune responses described previously and that the P9 proteins represent a new class of antibacterial agents for which we propose the name cecropins. We describe here the primary structures of cecropins A and B. We also show that cecropin A is specific for bacteria in contrast to melittin, the main lytic component in bee venom which lyses both bacteria and eukaryotic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Hemolymph / immunology
  • Insect Hormones / analysis
  • Insect Hormones / pharmacology
  • Insect Hormones / physiology*
  • Insect Proteins*
  • Isoelectric Point
  • Lepidoptera / immunology*
  • Melitten / physiology
  • Molecular Weight
  • Moths / immunology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Insect Hormones
  • Insect Proteins
  • Melitten
  • cecropin A
  • cecropin B protein, Insecta