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Keywords:

  • antimicrobial peptides;
  • innate immunity;
  • Gram-negative bacteria;
  • defensins;
  • cathelicidins

Abstract

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are present in virtually all organisms and are an ancient and critical component of innate immunity. In mammals, AMPs are present in phagocytic cells, on body surfaces such as skin and mucosa, and in secretions and body fluids such as sweat, saliva, urine, and breast milk, consistent with their role as part of the first line of defense against a wide range of pathogenic microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. AMPs are microbicidal and have also been shown to act as immunomodulators with chemoattractant and signaling activities. During the co-evolution of hosts and bacterial pathogens, bacteria have developed the ability to sense and initiate an adaptive response to AMPs to resist their bactericidal activity. Here, we review the various mechanisms used by Gram-negative bacteria to sense and resist AMP-mediated killing. These mechanisms play an important role in bacterial resistance to host-derived AMPs that are encountered during the course of infection. Bacterial resistance to AMPs should also be taken into consideration in the development and use of AMPs as anti-infective agents, for which there is currently a great deal of academic and commercial interest.