Methods and Molecular Biology
by Andrea Giuliani
Edition: Vol. 618, 2010
Antimicrobial peptides, also called host-defense peptides, are an evolutionary conserved component of the innate immune response and are found among all classes of life. As our knowledge of the innate immune systems in multicellular organisms has grown steadily in the last two decades, so has our comprehension of the basic role played by gene-encoded, ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in this ancient line of defense against infections. Indeed, although the ability of many prokaryotes to produce and release peptidic or proteinaceous substances with antibacterial and antifungal activity has been known for quite a long time, the presence of AMPs in humans and animals (and later plants) has been recognized only more recently, in the 1980s, with the identification of cecropins in the pupae of Hyalophora cecropia moth, defensins in human neutrophils, and magainins in skin secretions of the frog Xenopus laevis (1–3); these findings, though, were grounded on previous work conducted in the 1960s and 1970s.
Antimicrobial peptides are promising candidates for novel therapeutic agents, complementing conventional antibiotic therapies to combat pathogenic microorganisms in human and veterinary medicine.