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Drug Discov Today. 2007 Nov;12(21-22):966-71. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Therapeutic potential of antifungal plant and insect defensins.

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Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, Kasteelpark Arenberg 20, B-3001 Heverlee, Belgium.


To defend themselves against invading fungal pathogens, plants and insects largely depend on the production of a wide array of antifungal molecules, including antimicrobial peptides such as defensins. Interestingly, plant and insect defensins display antimicrobial activity not only against plant and insect pathogens but also against human fungal pathogens, including Candida spp. and Aspergillus spp. This review focuses on these defensins as novel leads for antifungal therapeutics. Their mode of action, involving interaction with fungus-specific sphingolipids, and heterologous expression, required for cost-effective production, are major assets for development of plant and insect defensins as antifungal leads. Studies evaluating their in vivo antifungal efficacy demonstrate their therapeutic potential.

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