We described previously (W.M. Shafer, L.E. Martin, and J.K. Spitznagel, Infect. Immun. 45:29-35, 1984) the presence of a 37-kilodalton cationic antimicrobial protein (37K CAP) in extracts of granules prepared from human polymorphonuclear granulocytes (PMN). In this investigation, we prepared 37K CAP from PMN granule extracts by sequential ion-exchange and molecular-sieve chromatography and examined its antimicrobial activity against a number of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. At concentrations of 5 micrograms/ml or lower, 37K CAP exerted selective antimicrobial activity against gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria included Acinetobacter lwoffii, Escherichia coli, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas cepacia, Salmonella typhi, Salmonella typhimurium, and Shigella sonnei. However, at 5 micrograms of 37K CAP per ml, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, and Serratia marcescens resisted this antimicrobial activity. The bactericidal activity of 37K CAP was greatest in acidic (pH 5.5) as opposed to alkaline (pH 7.5) media. The level of S. typhimurium resistance to 37K CAP correlated with the presence of O antigen in the lipopolysaccharide. In the absence of O antigen repeat units, resistance was proportional to the length of the core oligosaccharide. These results suggest that 37K CAP may contribute significantly to the ability of PMN to kill gram-negative bacteria by nonoxidative means, particularly as the maturing phagolysosome becomes acidified
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