Antimicrobial Peptides from Rat-Tailed Maggots of the Drone Fly Eristalis tenax Show Potent Activity against Multidrug-Resistant Gram-Negative Bacteria
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The spread of multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria is an increasing threat to human health because novel compound classes for the development of antibiotics have not been discovered for decades. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) may provide a much-needed breakthrough because these immunity-related defence molecules protect many eukaryotes against Gram-negative pathogens. Recent concepts in evolutionary immunology predict the presence of potent AMPs in insects that have adapted to survive in habitats with extreme microbial contamination. For example, the saprophagous and coprophagous maggots of the drone fly Eristalis tenax (Diptera) can flourish in polluted aquatic habitats, such as sewage tanks and farmyard liquid manure storage pits. We used next-generation sequencing to screen the E. tenax immunity-related transcriptome for AMPs that are synthesized in response to the injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide. We identified 22 AMPs and selected nine for larger-scale synthesis to test their activity against a broad spectrum of pathogens, including multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Two cecropin-like peptides (EtCec1-a and EtCec2-a) and a diptericin-like peptide (EtDip) displayed strong activity against the pathogens, even under simulated physiological conditions, and also achieved a good therapeutic window. Therefore, these AMPs could be used as leads for the development of novel antibiotics.