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Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2004 Apr;4(4):543-9.

Antimicrobial peptides and the skin.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, CA 92161, USA.


In recent years, hundreds of naturally occurring peptide antibiotics have been discovered based on their ability to inhibit the growth of microbial pathogens. These antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) participate in the innate immune response by providing a rapid first-line defence against infection. This review discusses the biology and clinical relevance of the two major families of AMPs, cathelicidins and defensins, with emphasis on their function in mammalian skin and their association with skin pathology. Current evidence shows that cathelicidins and defensins act as both natural antibiotics and as signalling molecules that activate host cell processes involved in immune defence and tissue repair. Alterations in the expression pattern of AMPs have been associated with a variety of pathological processes. Ongoing and future studies are likely to implicate AMPs in several unexplained human inflammatory disorders and to provide novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of these diseases.

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