Platypuses are rather bizarre mammals. For one, they lay eggs and although they feed their young milk, they sweat this milk from glands on their belly. Because the young lap up the milk and they live in burrows, they are exposed to microbes at a very young age. Like many mammals, platypus milk has antibiotic properties to help protect the young. However, the antibiotic protein found in platypus milk appears to have a very special structure. In fact, it is only found in monotremes.
Researchers from Deakin University and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have now identified the structure of Monotreme Lactation Protein (dubbed “Shirley Temple” based on its structure) from platypus milk. Researchers believe the unique structure of this protein is what allows it to fight bacteria so effectively. It may also help in the design of drugs for antibiotic resistant bacteria. The findings were published in Structural Biology Communications.
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J Newman, JA Sharp, AK Enjapoori, J Bentley, KR Nicholas, TE Adams, TS Peat. Structural characterization of a novel monotreme-specific protein with antimicrobial activity from the milk of platypus. Structural Biology Communications. 74: 39-45, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1107/S2053230X17017708