Antimicrobial properties of mucus from the\ud brown garden snail Helix aspersa

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Gunn, A ; Pitt, SJ ; Graham, MA ; Dedi, CG ; Taylor-Harris, PM

Research into naturally occurring antimicrobial substances has yielded effective treatments. One area of interest is peptides and proteins produced by invertebrates as part of their defence system, including the contents of mollusc mucus. Mucus produced by the African giant land snail, Achatina fulica has been reported to contain two proteins with broad-spectrum antibacterial activity. Mucus from the brown garden snail, Helix aspersa, appears to have skin regeneration properties. This study sought to investigate the antimicrobial properties of H. aspersa mucus. Mucus was collected from H. aspersa snails, diluted in phosphatebuffered saline (PBS), with the supernatant tested against a wide range of organisms in a disc-diffusion antimicrobial assay. This was followed with comparative experiments involving A. fulica, including bacteriophage assays. Mucus from both species of snail was passed through a series of protein size separation columns in order to determine the approximate size of the antimicrobial substance. Electrophoresis was also carried out on the H. aspersa mucus. Results indicated that H. aspersa mucus had a strong antibacterial effect against several strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a weak effect against Staphylococcus aureus. Mucus from A. fulica also inhibited the growth of S. aureus, but the broad spectrum of activity reported by other workers was not observed. Antimicrobial activity was not caused by bacteriophage. Size separation experiments indicated that the antimicrobial substance(s) in H. aspersa were between 30 and 100 kDa. Electrophoresis revealed two proteins in this region (30–40 kDa and 50–60 kDa). These do not correspond with antimicrobial proteins previously reported in A. fulica. This study found one or more novel antimicrobial agents in H. aspersa mucus, with a strong effect against P. aeruginosa.
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