Identification and functional characterization of three chicken cathelicidins with potent antimicrobial activity

Yanjing Xiao, Yibin Cai, Yugendar R. Bommineni, Samodha C. Fernando, Om Prakash, Stanley E. Gilliland, Guolong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Cathelicidins comprise a family of antimicrobial peptides sharing a highly conserved cathelin domain. Here we report that the entire chicken genome encodes three cathelicidins, namely fowlicidin-1 to -3, which are densely clustered within a 7.5-kb distance at the proximal end of chromosome 2p. Each fowlicidin gene adopts a fourexon, three-intron structure, typical for a mammalian cathelicidin. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that fowlicidins and a group of distantly related mammalian cathelicidins known as neutrophilic granule proteins are likely to originate from a common ancestral gene prior to the separation of birds from mammals, whereas other classic mammalian cathelicidins may have been duplicated from the primordial gene for neutrophilic granule proteins after mammals and birds are diverged. Similar to ovine cathelicidin SMAP-29, putatively mature fowlicidins displayed potent and salt-independent activities against a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains, with minimum inhibitory concentrations in the range of 0.4-2.0 μM for most strains. Fowlicidin-1 and -2 also showed cytotoxicity, with 50% killing of mammalian erythrocytes or epithelial cells in the range of 6-40 μM. In addition, two fowlicidins demonstrated a strong positive cooperativity in binding lipopolysaccharide (LPS), resulting in nearly complete blockage of LPS-mediated proinflammatory gene expression in RAW264.7 cells. Taken together, fowlicidin-1 and -2 are clearly among the most potent cathelicidins that have been reported. Their broad spectrum and salt-insensitive antibacterial activities, coupled with their potent LPS-neutralizing activity, make fowlicidins excellent candidates for novel antimicrobial and antisepsis agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2858-2867
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 3 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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