Human host defense peptide LL-37 prevents bacterial biofilm formation

Infect Immun. 2008 Sep;76(9):4176-82. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00318-08. Epub 2008 Jun 30.


The ability to form biofilms is a critical factor in chronic infections by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and has made this bacterium a model organism with respect to biofilm formation. This study describes a new, previously unrecognized role for the human cationic host defense peptide LL-37. In addition to its key role in modulating the innate immune response and weak antimicrobial activity, LL-37 potently inhibited the formation of bacterial biofilms in vitro. This occurred at the very low and physiologically meaningful concentration of 0.5 microg/ml, far below that required to kill or inhibit growth (MIC = 64 microg/ml). LL-37 also affected existing, pregrown P. aeruginosa biofilms. Similar results were obtained using the bovine neutrophil peptide indolicidin, but no inhibitory effect on biofilm formation was detected using subinhibitory concentrations of the mouse peptide CRAMP, which shares 67% identity with LL-37, polymyxin B, or the bovine bactenecin homolog Bac2A. Using microarrays and follow-up studies, we were able to demonstrate that LL-37 affected biofilm formation by decreasing the attachment of bacterial cells, stimulating twitching motility, and influencing two major quorum sensing systems (Las and Rhl), leading to the downregulation of genes essential for biofilm development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cathelicidins
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymyxin B / pharmacology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / immunology*
  • Quorum Sensing / drug effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Cathelicidins
  • indolicidin
  • CAP18 lipopolysaccharide-binding protein
  • Polymyxin B