Endogenous antimicrobial peptides and proteins are crucial components of the innate immune system and play an essential role in the defense against infection. Antimicrobial activity was detected in the acid extract of livers harvested from healthy adult White Leghorn hens, Gallus gallus. Two antimicrobial proteins and one antimicrobial polypeptide were isolated from the liver extract by cation-exchange and gel filtration chromatography, followed by two-step reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC). These antimicrobial components were identified as histones H2A and H2B.V, and histone H2B C-terminal fragment using peptide mass fingerprinting and partial sequencing by tandem nanoelectrospray mass spectrometry. The proteins and the peptide identified in the present study, which exhibited antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, were thermostable and showed salt-resistant activity. The antimicrobial properties of histones and histone fragment in chicken provide further evidence that histones, in addition to their role in nucleosome formation, may play an important role in innate host defense against intracellular or extracellular microbe invasion in a wide range of animal species.
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