A synthetic antimicrobial peptide BTD-S expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana confers enhanced resistance to Verticillium dahliae
θ-Defensins are the only natural cyclic proteins found in primates. They have strong antimicrobial activity related to their trisulfide ladders and macrocyclic conformation. A non-cyclic baboon θ-defensin (BTD) was synthesized by substituting valine with phenylalanine at position 17, at the C-terminal end of the BTD; this was termed “BTD-S.” The antimicrobial activities of this synthetic peptide were investigated against Escherichia coli and two cotton phytopathogens: Verticillium dahliae and Fusarium oxysporum. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of BTD-S for E. coli was 10 μg/mL and for V. dahliae was 5 μg/mL, significantly lower than that for F. oxysporum (40.0 μg/mL). A time course analysis of fungal cultures indicated that the growth of V. dahliae was completely inhibited after 96 h of BTD-S treatment. Furthermore, hemolysis assays revealed that BTD-S was not toxic to mammalian cells as it could not induce lysis of sheep red blood cells even at ten times the MIC (50 μg/mL). Scanning electron microscopy and double-stained (calcofluor white and propidium iodide binding) fluorescence microscopy showed that exposure of spores of V. dahliae to BTD-S either disabled normal germination or disintegrated the spores. The size of cells exposed to BTD-S was significantly reduced compared with controls, and their number increased in a dose-dependent curve when measured by flow cytometry. These findings suggest that BTD-S has great potential to inhibit the growth of V. dahliae and can be utilized as an effective remedy to control economic losses caused by Verticillium wilt in the development of wilt-resistant cotton.