Title

A novel antimicrobial peptide from Aspergillus fumigatus

Document Type

Thesis

Publication Date

2011

Advisor

Jennifer Galovich, Mathematics; Barbara May, Biology

Abstract

In the broadest sense, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small strings of amino acids that can effectively destroy different types of microorganisms and can be beneficial in protection against infection as part of innate immunity. Although several databases of antimicrobial peptides have already been identified, the goal of this thesis was to identify a new antimicrobial peptide. Our research can be broken up into three main steps: investigate characteristics of known antimicrobial peptides, identify and explore novel AMPs, and perform various laboratory experiments on a novel AMP.

First, bioinformatics tools, such as the creation of phylogenetic trees, were used to study patterns relating to structure and sequence of these known peptides, specifically looking at sequential relationships among known antimicrobial peptides. Second, we used this information to identify new potential antimicrobial peptides by using BLAST analysis. One such peptide (nicknamed AFAMP) was identified in the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. More bioinformatics research suggests that AFAMP is homologous to MiAMP1, an antimicrobial peptide from the macadamia nut tree Macadamia integrifolia. Once we made these bioinformatics predictions, we transitioned to the laboratory to determine the function of AFAMP. AFAMP was expressed using an Escherichia coli vector and cell-free expression system. Preliminary data from an antimicrobial assay suggests AFAMP is effective at killing two bacteria, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

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