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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2004 Sep;2(9):727-38.

Primate defensins.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Molecular Biology Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Defensins are endogenous, cysteine-rich antimicrobial peptides that contribute to host defence against bacterial, fungal and viral infections. There are three subfamilies of defensins in primates: alpha-defensins are most common in neutrophils and Paneth cells of the small intestine; beta-defensins protect the skin and the mucous membranes of the respiratory, genitourinary and gastrointestinal tracts; and theta-defensins, which are expressed only in Old World monkeys, lesser apes and orangutans, are lectins with broad-spectrum antiviral efficacy. Here, their discovery and recent advances in understanding their properties and functions are described.

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