Multiple roles of antimicrobial defensins, cathelicidins, and eosinophil-derived neurotoxin in host defense

Annu Rev Immunol. 2004;22:181-215. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.22.012703.104603.


Mammals generate a diverse array of antimicrobial proteins, largely represented by defensins or cathelicidins. The direct in vitro microbicidal activity of antimicrobial proteins has long been considered an important innate immune defense, although the in vivo relevance has only very recently been established for certain defensins and cathelicidins. Mammalian defensins and cathelicidins have also been shown to have multiple receptor-mediated effects on immune cells. Beta-defensins interact with CCR6; murine beta-defensin-2 in addition activates TLR4. Cathelicidins act on FPRL1-expressing cells. Furthermore, several defensins have considerable immunoenhancing activity. Thus, it appears that mammalian antimicrobial proteins contribute to both innate and adaptive antimicrobial immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Proteins / immunology*
  • Defensins / immunology*
  • Eosinophil-Derived Neurotoxin
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Protein Precursors / immunology*
  • Ribonucleases / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Blood Proteins
  • Defensins
  • Protein Precursors
  • Eosinophil-Derived Neurotoxin
  • Ribonucleases