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Biol Chem. 2001 Apr;382(4):597-619.

Antimicrobial peptides: properties and applicability.

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Department of Oral Biology, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


All organisms need protection against microorganisms, e. g. bacteria, viruses and fungi. For many years, attention has been focused on adaptive immunity as the main antimicrobial defense system. However, the adaptive immune system, with its network of humoral and cellular responses is only found in higher animals, while innate immunity is encountered in all living creatures. The turning point in the appreciation of the innate immunity was the discovery of antimicrobial peptides in the early eighties. In general these peptides act by disrupting the structural integrity of the microbial membranes. It has become clear that membrane-active peptides and proteins play a crucial role in both the innate and the adaptive immune system as antimicrobial agents. This review is focused on the functional and structural features of the naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides, and discusses their potential as therapeutics.

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