Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are promising agents for control of bacterial and fungal infections. Traditionally, AMPs were thought to act through membrane disruption but recent experiments have revealed a diversity of mechanisms. Here we describe a novel antifungal activity for bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI). BPTI has several features in common with a subset of antimicrobial proteins in that it is small, cationic and stabilized by disulphide bonds. BPTI inhibits growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the human pathogen Candida albicans. Screening of the yeast heterozygous essential deletion collection identified the magnesium transporter Alr1p as a potential BPTI target. BPTI treatment of wild type cells resulted in a lowering of cellular Mg(2+) levels. Populations treated with BPTI had fewer cells in S-phase of the cell cycle and a corresponding increase of cells in G(0)/G(1) and G(2) phases. The same patterns of cell cycle arrest obtained with BPTI were also obtained with the magnesium channel inhibitor hexamine(III)cobalt chloride. Analysis of the growth inhibition of C. albicans revealed that BPTI is inhibiting growth via the same mechanism in the two yeast species. Inhibition of magnesium uptake by BPTI represents a novel mechanism of action for AMPs.