Plant defensins--prospects for the biological functions and biotechnological properties

Peptides. 2009 May;30(5):1007-20. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2009.01.018. Epub 2009 Feb 7.


Plant defensins are a prominent family of cationic peptides in the plant kingdom. They are structurally and functionally related to defensins that have been previously characterized in mammals and insects. They present molecular masses between 5 and 7kDa and possess a pattern of eight conserved Cys residues. The three-dimensional structure of plant defensins is small and globular. It has three anti-parallel beta-sheets and one alpha-helix that is stabilized by a structural motif composed of disulfide bridges. This motif is found in other peptides with biological activity and is called the Cys stabilized alphabeta motif (CSalphabeta). Based on the growing knowledge on defensin structure, gene expression and regulation, and also their in vitro biological activity, it has become clear that plant defensins are complex and sophisticated peptides whose function extends beyond their role in defense of plants against microbial infection. This review discusses recent data and will present comprehensive information regarding the study of defensins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biotechnology
  • Defensins / chemistry
  • Defensins / genetics
  • Defensins / pharmacology
  • Defensins / physiology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Defensins