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Knowledge on the contribution of protein glycosylation in host defense antimicrobial peptides is still scarce. We have studied here how the post‐translational modification pattern modulates the antimicrobial activity of one of the best characterized leukocyte granule proteins. The human eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), an eosinophil specific granule protein secreted during inflammation and infection, can target a wide variety of pathogens. Previous work in human eosinophil extracts identified several ECP native forms and glycosylation heterogeneity was found to contribute to the protein biological properties. In this study we analyze for the first time the antimicrobial activity of the distinct native proteins purified from healthy donor blood. Low and heavy molecular weight forms were tested on Escherichia coli cell cultures and compared with the recombinant non‐glycosylated protein. Further analysis on model membranes provided an insight towards an understanding of the protein behavior at the cytoplasmic membrane level. The results highlight the significant reduction in protein toxicity and bacteria agglutination activity for heavy glycosylated fractions. Notwithstanding, the lower glycosylated fraction mostly retains the lipopolysaccharide binding affinity together with the cytoplasmic membrane depolarization and membrane leakage activities. From structural analysis we propose that heavy glycosylation interferes with the protein self‐aggregation, hindering the cell agglutination and membrane disruption processes. The results suggest the contribution of post‐translational modifications to the antimicrobial role of ECP in host defense.

Original publication




Journal article


The FEBS Journal



Publication Date





5432 - 5446