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Cecropin A—Derived Peptides Are Potent Inhibitors of Fungal Plant Pathogens

March 1998 , Volume 11 , Number  3
Pages  218 - 227

Laura Cavallarin , 1 David Andreu , 2 and Blanca San Segundo 1

1Departamento de Genética Molecular, Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de Barcelona, CSIC, Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Spain; 2Departament de Química Orgánica, Universitat de Barcelona, Martí i Franquès 1, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

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Accepted 5 December 1997.

Cecropins are naturally occurring peptides that play an important role in the immune response of insects. Cecropin A-derived and cecropin A-melittin hybrid peptides, all smaller than the natural compound cecropin A, were synthesized and tested for their ability to inhibit growth of several agronomically important fungal pathogens. We found that an 11-amino-acid sequence, corresponding to the N-terminal amphipathic α-helix domain of cecropin A, exhibited antifungal activity. Differences in susceptibility of the various pathogens were observed, Phytophthora infestans being particularly sensitive to the shortened cecropin A peptides (IC50 = 2 × 10−6 M). Biotoxicity of the shortest cecropin A-derived peptide was variously affected by the presence of proteins extracted from leaves of tobacco and tomato plants, either total extracts or intercellular fluids (ICFs). Overall, there was a greater tolerance to tomato protein extracts than to tobacco extracts. These findings suggest that tobacco should not be used as a model for testing the possible protective effects of transgenically expressed, cecropin-based genes. The feasibility of tailoring cecropin A genes to enhance crop protection in particular plant/fungus combinations is discussed.

© 1998 The American Phytopathological Society