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Ann Rheum Dis. 2003 Nov;62 Suppl 2:ii17-21.

Roles of antimicrobial peptides such as defensins in innate and adaptive immunity.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Frederick, MD 21702, 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.

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