Antimicrobial peptides in the venom of the European hornet, Vespa crabro, identified as mastoparan C and crabrolin

R. Huang, Lei Wang, Mei Zhou, Tianbao Chen, Christopher Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amphibian skin secretions are rich sources of cationic amphipathic peptides which often possess potent and broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. However, the venoms of other animals such as hymenopteran insects, also contain peptides with these characteristics and the literature is unclear as to their antimicrobial potential. Here we subjected the venom of the European hornet, Vespa crabro, to reverse phase HPLC fractionation followed by screening of aliquots of individual fractions in bacterial zonal inhibition assays. Two major peptides possessing activity in these assays were further purified by HPLC and subjected to MALDI-TOF MS analysis and MS/MS fragmentation using an ESI mass spectrometer. The peptides were identified as mastoparan C (LNLKALLAVAKKILamide) and crabrolin (FLPLILRKIVTALamide). Replicates of both peptides were synthesised by solid-phase methodology and mean inhibitory concentrations (MICs) established against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Mastoparan C was found to be a potent antimicrobial with MIC values of 2 µM and 4 µM against S. aureus and E. coli, respectively. Crabrolin was found to be less potent with MIC values of > 160 µM and 40 µM for S. aureus and E. coli. Hornet venom thus contains a potent antimicrobial peptide that has been unambiguously identified as mastoparan C, a peptide that is known to affect profound histamine release from mast cells and to generally activate membrane G protein-linked receptors. It is thus highly probable that its antimicrobial effects, like those previously documented, are a result of a generalized membrane interactive and disruptive function — perhaps reflective of the authentic role of amphibian skin antimicrobials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-49
Number of pages2
JournalRegulatory Peptides
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

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