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

Schmidt, C.A.; Wilson, D.T.; Cooke, I.; Potriquet, J.; Tungatt, K.; Muruganandah, V.; Boote, Cë.; Kuek, F.; Miles, J.J.; Kupz, A.; Ryan, S.; Loukas, A.; Bansal, P.S.; Takjoo, R.; Miller, D.J.; Peigneur, S.; Tytgat, J.; Daly, N.L.

Journal of Natural Products 83(11): 3454-3463


ISSN/ISBN: 0163-3864
PMID: 33166137
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.0c00981
Accession: 071079752

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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 beta-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.