How do bacteria resist human antimicrobial peptides?

Trends Microbiol. 2002 Apr;10(4):179-86. doi: 10.1016/s0966-842x(02)02333-8.


Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs), such as defensins, cathelicidins and thrombocidins, are an important human defense mechanism, protecting skin and epithelia against invading microorganisms and assisting neutrophils and platelets. Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica and other bacterial pathogens have evolved countermeasures to limit the effectiveness of CAMPs, including the repulsion of CAMPs by reducing the net negative charge of the bacterial cell envelope through covalent modification of anionic molecules (e.g. teichoic acids, phospholipids and lipid A); expelling CAMPs through energy-dependent pumps; altering membrane fluidity; and cleaving CAMPs with proteases. Mutants susceptible to CAMPs are more efficiently inactivated by phagocytes and are virulence-attenuated, indicating that CAMP resistance plays a key role in bacterial infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / physiology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Lipid A / chemistry
  • Lipid A / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Teichoic Acids / metabolism
  • Virulence


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Lipid A
  • Phospholipids
  • Teichoic Acids