A substance possessing antimycobacterial activity under certain conditions in vitro has been prepared from aqueous extracts of calf thymus. Chemical studies have demonstrated that the activity of this substance is due to a basic peptide or a mixture of basic peptides. Although this thymus fraction has been shown to be essentially free of compounds other than peptides, it has not been obtained in a homogeneous state.
The thymus peptide preparation is soluble in water and in the lower alcohols. Its solubility is minimal between pH 10 and 11, suggesting that its isoelectric point may be in this vicinity. The microbiological activity of thymus peptide is destroyed by acid or alkaline hydrolysis and also by trypsin digestion, but is unaffected by pepsin digestion. Cellulose membranes are permeable to thymus peptide.
The most noteworthy finding concerning the amino acid composition of thymus peptide is the preponderance of the basic amino acids lysine and arginine, which together account for about 40 per cent of the weight of this substance. No cystine, and only trace amounts of other amino acids containing sulfur, are present in the thymus peptide preparation.