LL-37, the only human member of the cathelicidin family of antimicrobial peptides

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Sep;1758(9):1408-25. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2006.03.030. Epub 2006 Apr 4.


Antimicrobial peptides and their precursor molecules form a central part of human and mammalian innate immunity. The underlying genes have been thoroughly investigated and compared for a considerable number of species, allowing for phylogenetic characterization. On the phenotypical side, an ever-increasing number of very varied and distinctive influences of antimicrobial peptides on the innate immune system are reported. The basic biophysical understanding of mammalian antimicrobial peptides, however, is still very limited. This is especially unsatisfactory since knowledge of structural properties will greatly help in the understanding of their immunomodulatory functions. The focus of this review article will be on LL-37, the only cathelicidin-derived antimicrobial peptide found in humans. LL-37 is a 37-residue, amphipathic, helical peptide found throughout the body and has been shown to exhibit a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. It is expressed in epithelial cells of the testis, skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and the respiratory tract, and in leukocytes such as monocytes, neutrophils, T cells, NK cells, and B cells. It has been found to have additional defensive roles such as regulating the inflammatory response and chemo-attracting cells of the adaptive immune system to wound or infection sites, binding and neutralizing LPS, and promoting re-epthelialization and wound closure. The article aims to report the known biophysical facts, with an emphasis on structural evidence, and to set them into relation with insights gained on phylogenetically related antimicrobial peptides in other species. The multitude of immuno-functional roles is only outlined. We believe that this review will aid the future work on the biophysical, biochemical and immunological investigations of this highly intriguing molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • CAP18 lipopolysaccharide-binding protein