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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2008 Jul 15;124(1-2):1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Feb 1.

Avian defensins.

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.175, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Modulation of defensin expression may be one way to improve animal health and to reduce zoonotic diseases. Defensins are small, cationic, and amphipathic cysteine-rich antibiotic peptides found in plants, insects, mammals and birds. Whereas alpha- and theta-defensins appear to be absent in birds, several beta-defensins have been isolated from avian heterophils. In addition, beta-defensins were found to be constitutively or inducibly expressed at mucosal surfaces of the respiratory, intestinal and urogenital tracts. In this review the current knowledge of the defensin repertoire of birds, their tissue-specific expression, regulation and corresponding biological functions are described.

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