Two non-cationic defensin-like antimicrobial peptides, named Amblyomma defensin peptide 1 and Amblyomma defensin peptide 2, were identified from the hard tick, Amblyomma hebraeum, by a combination of suppression subtractive hybridization for differentially expressed genes and proteomics. cDNA clones encoding each of these two defensin-like antimicrobial peptides were isolated from the differentially expressed cDNA library of the tick synganglia (central nervous system). The preproproteins deduced from the cDNA sequences each have 92 amino acid residues. Amblyomma defensin peptide 2 was purified from the haemolymph of fed female ticks. The purified peptide displayed antibacterial activity against Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Amblyomma defensin peptide 1 was further identified by protein chip capture combined with SELDI-TOF (surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization–time-of-flight) MS. By screening for differentially expressed proteins, it was found that the expression of Amblyomma defensin peptide 1 was upregulated during 4 days post-feeding. Our findings firstly provide two defensin-like antimicrobial peptides that are particularly novel in being anionic, together with corresponding cDNA sequences, in hard ticks, and prove that the combination of suppression subtractive hybridization and protein profiling is a powerful method to study differentially expressed proteins, especially for organisms without available genome sequence information.

Abbreviations used: SELDI, surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization; MALDI-TOF, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization–time-of-flight; RP-HPLC, reversed-phase HPLC; LB, Luria–Bertani.

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