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Summary

The immune system consists of innate and adaptive immune responses. The innate immune system confers non-specific protection against a large number of pathogens, hence, serving as the first line of defence. The innate immune system utilizes Toll-like receptors (TLRs) to recognize and bind pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Binding of PAMPs leads to TLR activation, which, in turn, initiates MAPK- or NF-κB-dependent cascades that culminate in a proinflammatory response. This response involves the secretion of cytokines, chemokines and broad-spectrum antibacterial substances, such as defensins. Increased defensin synthesis is also mediated by the activation of receptors other than TLRs, such as NOD2, IL-17R and PAR-2. This review summarizes the recently characterized signalling pathways leading to increased defensin synthesis as well as the pathway by which defensins activate TLRs on immature dendritic and memory T cells. Thus, not only do defensins eliminate pathogens, but they also recruit the adaptive immune system in instances of infection and/or inflammation.