Crocodilians are an order of ancient reptiles that thrive in pathogen-rich environments. They can inhabit these harsh environments. This ability is indicative of a resilient innate immune system.
Defensins, a family of cysteine-rich cationic host defense peptides, are a significant component of the innate immune systems of all plant and animal species; however, crocodilian defensins are poorly characterized.
Crocodiles have great antifungal defenses through which they resist fatal fungal infections.
A new study by La Trobe University researchers shows that saltwater crocodile defensin harbors potent antifungal activity. The study could create a targeted treatment for fungal infections in humans, which are becoming increasingly frequent due to growing antibiotic resistance.
Lead author from La Trobe University, Scott Williams, said, “We solved structures of crocodile defensins, and they look surprisingly like the same proteins in humans. We could use them as a template to treat fungal infections in humans.”
“Soon, we will be able to adapt their defense to our own needs.”
“It’s the first time this function has been found in any plant or animal.”
“We haven’t seen the pH sensing mechanism in other animals or plants. The defensins are able to change their activity based on the pH environment, so we could engineer other defensins to turn off or on depending on the presence of infection.”