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Mammalian Antimicrobial Peptides: Promising Therapeutic Targets Against Infection and Chronic Inflammation

[ Vol. 16 , Issue. 1 ]


Pujarini Dutta and Santasabuj Das   Pages 99 - 129 ( 31 )


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are integral components of the host innate immune system and functional throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. AMPs are short cationic molecules and lethal against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast and protozoa due to their membranolytic effects on the negatively-charged microbial membranes. In addition, they exert multiple immunomodulatory roles like chemotaxis, modulation of cytokine and chemokine expression, leukocyte activation etc. Since AMPs suffer loss of microbicidal properties under serum and tissue environments, their capacity to modulate the immune system may predominates under the physiological conditions. Discovery of new antibiotics is lagging far behind the rapidly spreading drug resistance among the microorganisms. Both natural and synthetic AMPs have shown promise as ‘next generation antibiotics’ due to their unique mode of action, which minimises the chance of development of microbial resistance. In addition, they have therapeutic potential against non-infectious diseases like chronic inflammation and cancer. Many of the synthetic AMPs are currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of debilitating diseases, such as catheter-related infections, diabetic foot ulcers, chemotherapy-associated infections etc. Some of them have already entered the market as topical preparations. In this review, we synopsise the current literature of natural and synthetic AMPs in different infectious and inflammatory diseases of human microfloral habitats, especially the gastrointestinal, respiratory and genitourinary tracts and the skin. We also discuss the classification of AMPs, their mode action and antimicrobial spectrum, including the pathogen evasion mechanisms. In short, we tried to present the locus standi of AMPs in relation to human diseases and highlight the most promising synthetic peptides emerging from the clinical trials. Finally, we focused on the limitations and hurdles in terms of cost of production, bioavailability, pharmacokinetic stability and toxicity faced by commercial development and clinical use of the AMPs and strategies to overcome these hurdles.


AMPs, Cathelicidins, Defensins, IDRs, Infection, Inflammation, Synthetic AMPs.


National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (ICMR), Division of Clinical Medicine, P-33, CIT Road, Scheme-XM, Beliaghata, P.O. Box: 700010, Kolkata, India.

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