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J Pept Sci. 2008 Apr;14(4):518-23.

Structuring and interactions of human beta-defensins 2 and 3 with model membranes.

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ELETTRA Synchrotron Light Laboratory, S.S. 14 Km 163.5 in Area Science Park, 34012 Basovizza, Trieste, Italy.


beta-Defensins play an important role in both innate and adaptive immunity, displaying a direct anti-microbial activity against a wide variety of micro-organisms as well as interesting immuno-modulatory effects on host cells. Interaction with biological membranes appears to be a central theme in modulating these activities, leading to different consequences such as membrane lysis, translocation into the cytoplasm or transfer to a receptor. We have investigated the structuring of human beta-defensins (hBD2 and hBD3) and rationally designed variants, in relation to their interactions with real and model membranes. Biophysical methods, such as circular dichroism (CD), transmission or reflection IR and dye release were used to probe their structure/activity in the presence of model membranes, while fluorimetric and flow cytometric assays were used to investigate the effects on prokaryotic cells. Our results indicate that structural features, such as the helical N-terminal domains and oligomerisation at the membrane surface, may modulate the efficiency of membrane insertion and selectivity for microbial or host-cell membranes. We propose that both peptides interact with membranes as extended beta-sheet platforms that present amphipathic helices for insertion into the lipid bilayer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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