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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology

Impact factor: 3.698

ISSN Print: 1040-8401
ISSN Online: 2162-6472

Critical Reviews™ in Immunology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.v20.i5.40
24 pages

Cationic Antimicrobial Peptides and Their Multifunctional Role in the Immune System

Monisha G. Scott
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, #300—6174 University Blvd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3
Robert E. W. Hancock
Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, #300—6174 University Blvd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3

ABSTRACT

Many species of life contain cationic antimicrobial peptides as components of their immune systems. The antimicrobial activity of these peptides has been studied extensively, and many peptides have a broad spectrum of activity not only against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria but also against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Such cationic antimicrobial peptides can also act in synergy with host molecules, such as other cationic peptides and proteins, lysozyme, and also conventional antibiotics, to kill microbes. It has been found that certain peptides are produced in large quantities at sites of infection/inflammation, and their expression can be induced by bacterial products such as endotoxic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). These peptides often have a high affinity for bacterial products, such as LPS, allowing them to modulate the host response and reduce the inflammatory response in sepsis. More recently, they have been found to interact directly with host cells to modulate the inflammatory process and innate defenses.