A novel protein (IWF5) comprising 92 amino acids has been purified from the intercellular washing fluid of sugar beet leaves using cation exchange chromatography and reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography. Based on amino acid sequence homology, including the presence of eight cysteines at conserved positions, the protein can be classified as a member of the plant family of non-specific lipid transfer proteins (nsLTPs). The protein is 47% identical to IWF1, an antifungal nsLTP previously isolated from leaves of sugar beet. A potential site for N-linked glycosylation present in IWF5 (Asn-Xxx-Ser/Thr) was found not to be glycosylated. The amino acid sequence data were used to generate a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) clone: employed for the isolation of a corresponding cDNA clone. According to the cDNA clone, IWF5 is expressed as a preprotein with an N-terminal signal sequence of 26 amino acid residues. The protein shows a strong in vitro antifungal activity against Cercospora beticola (causal agent of leaf spot disease in sugar beet) and inhibits fungal growth at concentrations below 10 mu g ml(-1). (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.