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Identification and Characterization of a Peptide from the Stony Coral Heliofungia actiniformis

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journal contribution
posted on 09.11.2020, 20:34 by Casey A. Schmidt, David T. Wilson, Ira Cooke, Jeremy Potriquet, Katie Tungatt, Visai Muruganandah, Chloë Boote, Felicity Kuek, John J. Miles, Andreas Kupz, Stephanie Ryan, Alex Loukas, Paramjit S. Bansal, Rozita Takjoo, David J. Miller, Steve Peigneur, Jan Tytgat, Norelle L. Daly
Marine organisms produce a diverse range of toxins and bioactive peptides to support predation, competition, and defense. The peptide repertoires of stony corals (order Scleractinia) remain relatively understudied despite the presence of tentacles used for predation and defense that are likely to contain a range of bioactive compounds. Here, we show that a tentacle extract from the mushroom coral, Heliofungia actiniformis, contains numerous peptides with a range of molecular weights analogous to venom profiles from species such as cone snails. Using NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry we characterized a 12-residue peptide (Hact-1) with a new sequence (GCHYTPFGLICF) and well-defined β-hairpin structure stabilized by a single disulfide bond. The sequence is encoded within the genome of the coral and expressed in the polyp body tissue. The structure present is common among toxins and venom peptides, but Hact-1 does not show activity against select examples of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria or a range of ion channels, common properties of such peptides. Instead, it appears to have a limited effect on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, but the ecological function of the peptide remains unknown. The discovery of this peptide from H. actiniformis is likely to be the first of many from this and related species.