An antimicrobial protein of about 10 kD, called Ace-AMP1, was isolated from onion (Allium cepa L.) seeds. Based on the near-complete amino acid sequence of this protein, oligonucleotides were designed for polymerase chain reaction-based cloning of the corresponding cDNA. The mature protein is homologous to plant nonspecific lipid transfer proteins (nsLTPs), but it shares only 76% of the residues that are conserved among all known plant nsLTPs and is unusually rich in arginine. Ace-AMP1 inhibits all 12 tested plant pathogenic fungi at concentrations below 10 micrograms mL-1. Its antifungal activity is either not at all or is weakly affected by the presence of different cations at concentrations approximating physiological ionic strength conditions. Ace-AMP1 is also active on two Gram-positive bacteria but is apparently not toxic for Gram-negative bacteria and cultured human cells. In contrast to nsLTPs such as those isolated from radish or maize seeds, Ace-AMP1 was unable to transfer phospholipids from liposomes to mitochondria. On the other hand, lipid transfer proteins from wheat and maize seeds showed little or no antimicrobial activity, whereas the radish lipid transfer protein displayed antifungal activity only in media with low cation concentrations. The relevance of these findings with regard to the function of nsLTPs is discussed.