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Roles of antimicrobial peptides such as defensins in innate and adaptive immunity
  1. J J Oppenheim1,
  2. A Biragyn2,
  3. L W Kwak2,
  4. D Yang1
  1. 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702, USA
  2. 2Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J J Oppenheim, Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Building 560, Room 21-89A, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA;


A number of antimicrobial peptides such as defensins have multiple functions in host defence. Defensins are produced not only by phagocytic cells and lymphocytes, but also by the epithelial cell lining of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, the tracheobronchial tree, and keratinocytes. Some are produced constitutively, whereas others are induced by proinflammatory cytokines and exogenous microbial products. Defensins produced by cells in the course of innate host defence serve as signals which initiate, mobilise, and amplify adaptive immune host defences. Administration of defensins with antigens to mice enhances both cellular (Th1-dependent) and humoral (Th2-dependent) cytokine production and immune responses. Linkage of defensins to weak tumour antigens potentiates their immunoadjuvant effects. Defensins use multiple cellular receptors, which endows them with the capacity to marshall adaptive host defences against microbial invaders.

  • antimicrobial peptides
  • defence
  • immunity
  • defensins
  • iDC, immature dendritic cell
  • IFN, interferon
  • IL, interleukin
  • LPS, lipopolysaccharide
  • MBD, murine β defensin
  • TLR, toll-like receptor
  • TNF, tumour necrosis factor

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