Division of Dermatology, University of California, San Diego MC 9111B, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, California 92161, USA, and VA San Diego Health Care System, San Diego, California 92161, USA
- Key words: antimicrobial peptides, defensin, cathelicidin, dermcidin, innate immunity, skin diseases
- DOI : 10.1684/ejd.2008.0304
- Page(s) : 11-21
- Published in: 2008
The skin continuously encounters microbial pathogens. To defend against this, cells of the epidermis and dermis have evolved several innate strategies to prevent infection. Antimicrobial peptides are one of the primary mechanisms used by the skin in the early stages of immune defense. In general, antimicrobial peptides have broad antibacterial activity against gram-positive and negative bacteria and also show antifungal and antiviral activity. The antimicrobial activity of most peptides occurs as a result of unique structural characteristics that enable them to disrupt the microbial membrane while leaving human cell membranes intact. However, antimicrobial peptides also act on host cells to stimulate cytokine production, cell migration, proliferation, maturation, and extracellular matrix synthesis. The production by human skin of antimicrobial peptides such as defensins and cathelicidins occurs constitutively but also greatly increases after infection, inflammation or injury. Some skin diseases show altered expression of antimicrobial peptides, partially explaining the pathophysiology of these diseases. Thus, current research suggests that understanding how antimicrobial peptides modify susceptibility to microbes, influence skin inflammation, and modify wound healing, provides greater insight into the pathophysiology of skin disorders and offers new therapeutic opportunities.