Chapter 17 : Antimicrobial Peptides: Effectors of Innate Immunity

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Antimicrobial peptides are evolutionarily ancient weapons, which along with regulatory proteins such as the Toll receptor families have provided complex multicellular organisms with the defenses needed to effectively compete in a world dominated by microbes. Antimicrobial peptides from plants and animals have been discussed in the chapter. The amphipathic property of antimicrobial peptides permits them to achieve high concentrations both in the aqueous solution through which they must travel to reach their targets and in the fatty membranes of microbes into which they must penetrate. The discovery that Toll and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) played a role in antimicrobial peptide gene expression in insects and mammals led to a search for additional human homologues, driven by the hypothesis that the innate immune system utilizes specially tuned receptors to recognize specific and unique microbial chemical constituent patterns presented when microbes attack a multicellular organism. Antimicrobial peptides provide epithelial surfaces with protective agents that permit an animal to construct a physical barrier out of materials that could otherwise serve as a source of nutrients for microbes. Antimicrobial peptides, including both α- and β-defensins, are widely expressed in the male reproductive tracts of rats, mice, and humans. Antimicrobial peptides, released from circulating cells or induced in epithelia, can alert the adaptive immune system to trouble brewing. Over the past several years the functional categorization of antimicrobial peptides has been blurred somewhat by the discovery that numerous peptide hormones and cytokines exhibit potent antimicrobial activity in vitro.

Citation: Zasloff M. 2004. Antimicrobial Peptides: Effectors of Innate Immunity, p 313-344. In Kaufmann S, Medzhitov R, Gordon S (ed), The Innate Immune Response to Infection. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817671.ch17
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