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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 1990; 87(1): 210–214.

Antimicrobial defensin peptides form voltage-dependent ion-permeable channels in planar lipid bilayer membranes.


Defensins are cationic, cysteine-rich peptides (Mr = 3500-4000) found in the cytoplasmic granules of neutrophils and macrophages. These peptides possess broad antimicrobial activity in vitro against bacteria, fungi, tumor cells, and enveloped viruses, and they are believed to contribute to the "oxygen-independent" antimicrobial defenses of neutrophils and macrophages. Pathophysiologic studies in vitro have pointed to the plasma membrane as a possible target for the cytotoxic action of defensins. We report here that defensins form voltage-dependent, weakly anion-selective channels in planar lipid bilayer membranes, and we suggest that this channel-forming ability contributes to their antimicrobial properties observed in vitro.

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