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Immunol Rev. 2012 Jan;245(1):84-112. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2011.01082.x.

α-Defensins in human innate immunity.

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1
Department of Medicine and Molecular Biology Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1688, USA. rlehrer@mednet.ucla.edu

Abstract

Defensins are small, multifunctional cationic peptides. They typically contain six conserved cysteines whose three intramolecular disulfides stabilize a largely β-sheet structure. This review of human α-defensins begins by describing their evolution, including their likely relationship to the Big Defensins of invertebrates, and their kinship to the β-defensin peptides of many if not all vertebrates, and the θ-defensins found in certain non-human primates. We provide a short history of the search for leukocyte-derived microbicidal molecules, emphasizing the roles played by luck (good), preconceived notions (mostly bad), and proper timing (essential). The antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxic, and binding properties of human α-defensins are summarized. The structural features of α-defensins are described extensively and their functional contributions are assessed. The properties of HD6, an enigmatic Paneth cell α-defensin, are contrasted with those of the four myeloid α-defensins (HNP1-4) and of HD5, the other α-defensin of human Paneth cells. The review ends with a decalogue that may assist researchers or students interested in α-defensins and related aspects of neutrophil function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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