[Human beta-defensin 1: from defence to offence]

Z Gastroenterol. 2012 Nov;50(11):1171-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1312865. Epub 2012 Nov 13.
[Article in German]


The human gut is colonised by about one kilogram of commensal bacteria. These microorganisms are a potential threat, thus an efficient defence system is crucial in preventing bacterial translocation and infection. Besides other mechanisms of protection humans produce antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that are able to kill a broad range of microorganisms. The human beta-defensin 1 (hBD-1) plays a major role because it is produced constitutively by all human epithelia and some immune cells. In contrast to other AMPs, however, the biological function of hBD-1 has remained unclear since the antibiotic activity of hBD-1 in vitro was only marginal. But still, several diseases have been associated with genetic polymorphisms in the hBD-1 encoding gene. Herein we discuss why the biological role of hBD-1 has been overlooked and how hBD-1 can be activated by chemical reduction. We elaborate on the biological significance of this activation and its importance for inflammatory bowel disease.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Translocation / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / genetics*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Virulence / immunology
  • beta-Defensins / genetics*


  • DEFB1 protein, human
  • beta-Defensins