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Eur J Haematol. 1990 Jan;44(1):1-8.


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Will Rogers Pulmonary Research Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-1736.


Defensins are a family of small, variably cationic proteins which are highly abundant in the granules of mammalian phagocytes. Three defensins, HNP-1, 2, and 3, comprise 30-50% of total protein in azurophil granules of human neutrophils. Some defensins are broadly antimicrobial, antiviral and cytotoxic, while others are chemotactic, opsonic, or may modulate hormonal responses. The defensin molecule typically consists of 29-34 amino acids with a conserved pattern of disulfide linkage among its 6 cysteines. The three-dimensional fold of defensins forms a highly amphiphilic molecule. Microbicidal and cytotoxic properties of defensins are most likely a consequence of their ability to insert into biological membranes and to generate pores. Defensins are synthesized by phagocytes or their precursors as a 94-95 amino acid charge-neutralized preprodefensin, an arrangement which may avoid cytotoxic injury to the phagocyte. Although defensins were recognized only recently, the existence of homologs in certain invertebrates suggests that they are ancestral components of the host defense system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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