Abaecin – Antimicrobial Peptide

Abaecin is a proline-rich cationic antimicrobial peptide (PrAMP) and was isolated from Apis mellifera. Abaecin is a 34 amino acid peptide including 10 prolines positioned uniformly which prevents the α-helical conformation.


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1- Kim, D.S., Kim, S.W., Song, J.M. et al. BMC Biotechnol (2019)
abaecin peptide A new prokaryotic expression vector for the expression of antimicrobial peptide abaecin using SUMO fusion tag



Despite the growing demand for antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) for clinical use as an alternative approach against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the manufacture of AMPs relies on expensive, small-scale chemical methods. The small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) tag is industrially practical for increasing the yield of recombinant proteins by increasing solubility and preventing degradation in expression systems.


A new vector system, pKSEC1, was designed to produce AMPs, which can work in prokaryotic systems such as Escherichia coli and plant chloroplasts. 6xHis was tagged to SUMO for purification of SUMO-fused AMPs. Abaecin, a 34-aa-long antimicrobial peptide from honeybees, was expressed in a fusion form to 6xHis-SUMO in a new vector system to evaluate the prokaryotic expression platform of the antimicrobial peptides. The fusion sequences were codon-optimized in three different combinations and expressed in E. coli. The combination of the native SUMO sequence with codon-optimized abaecin showed the highest expression level among the three combinations, and most of the expressed fusion proteins were detected in soluble fractions. Cleavage of the SUMO tag by sumoase produced a 29-aa-long abaecin derivative with a C-terminal deletion. However, this abaecin derivative still retained the binding sequence for its target protein, DnaK. Antibacterial activity of the 29-aa long abaecin was tested against Bacillus subtilis alone or in combination with cecropin B. The combined treatment of the abaecin derivative and cecropin B showed bacteriolytic activity 2 to 3 times greater than that of abaecin alone.


Using a SUMO-tag with an appropriate codon-optimization strategy could be an approach for the production of antimicrobial peptides in E.coli without affecting the viability of the host cell.


Abaecin; Antimicrobial peptide; Codon optimization; Escherichia coli; Small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO)

2- Luiz, D.P., Almeida, J.F., Goulart, L.R. et al. Microb Cell Fact 16, 76 (2017)
abaecin peptide Heterologous expression of abaecin peptide from Apis mellifera in Pichia pastoris



Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are the first line of host immune defense against pathogens. Among AMPs from the honeybee Apis mellifera, abaecin is a major broad-spectrum antibacterial proline-enriched cationic peptide.


For heterologous expression of abaecin in Pichia pastoris, we designed an ORF with HisTag, and the codon usage was optimized. The gene was chemically synthetized and cloned in the pUC57 vector. The new ORF was sub-cloned in the pPIC9 expression vector and transformed into P. pastoris. After selection of positive clones, the expression was induced by methanol. The supernatant was analyzed at different times to determine the optimal time for the recombinant peptide expression. As a proof-of-concept, Escherichia coli was co-incubated with the recombinant peptide to verify its antimicrobial potential.


Briefly, the recombinant Abaecin (rAbaecin) has efficiently decreased E. coli growth (P < 0.05) through an in vitro assay, and may be considered as a novel therapeutic agent that may complement other conventional antibiotic therapies.


Abaecin; Apis mellifera; Heterologous expression; Pichia pastoris; Proline-rich antimicrobial peptide