Antimicrobial peptides and gut microbiota in homeostasis and pathology



We survive because we adapted to a world of microorganisms. All our epithelial surfaces participate in keeping up an effective barrier against microbes while not initiating ongoing inflammatory processes and risking collateral damage to the host. Major players in this scenario are antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). Such broad-spectrum innate antibiotics are in part produced by specialized cells but also widely sourced from all epithelia as well as circulating inflammatory cells. AMPs belong to an ancient defense system found in all organisms and participated in a preservative co-evolution with a complex microbiome. Particularly interesting interactions between host barrier and microbiota can be found in the gut. The intestinal cell lining not only has to maintain a tightly regulated homeostasis during its high-throughput regeneration, but also a balanced relationship towards an extreme number of mutualistic or commensal inhabitants. Recent research suggests that advancing our understanding of the circumstances of such balanced and sometimes imbalanced interactions between gut microbiota and host AMPs should have therapeutic implications for different intestinal disorders.