Antimicrobial peptides and colitis

Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19(1):40-7. doi: 10.2174/13816128130108.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are important components of innate immunity. They are often expressed in response to colonic inflammation and infection. Over the last several years, the roles of several antimicrobial peptides have been explored. Gene expression of many AMPs (beta defensin HBD2-4 and cathelicidin) is induced in response to invasion of gut microbes into the mucosal barrier. Some AMPs are expressed in a constitutive manner (alpha defensin HD 5-6 and beta defensin HBD1), while others (defensin and bactericidal/ permeability increasing protein BPI) are particularly associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) due to altered defensin expression or development of autoantibodies against Bactericidal/permeability increasing protein (BPI). Various AMPs have different spectrum and strength of antimicrobial effects. Some may play important roles in modulating the colitis (cathelicidin) while others (lactoferrin, hepcidin) may represent biomarkers of disease activity. The use of AMPs for therapeutic purposes is still at an early stage of development. A few natural AMPs were shown to be able to modulate colitis when delivered intravenously or intracolonically (cathelicidin, elafin and SLPI) in mouse colitis models. New AMPs (synthetic or artificial non-human peptides) are being developed and may represent new therapeutic approaches against colitis. This review discusses the latest research developments in the AMP field with emphasis in innate immunity and pathophysiology of colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism*
  • Colitis / drug therapy
  • Colitis / immunology
  • Colitis / physiopathology*
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Design
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Ileum / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • alpha-Defensins / genetics
  • alpha-Defensins / metabolism*
  • beta-Defensins / genetics
  • beta-Defensins / metabolism*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • alpha-Defensins
  • beta-Defensins