Insights into the antimicrobial properties of hepcidins: advantages and drawbacks as potential therapeutic agents

Molecules. 2015 Apr 10;20(4):6319-41. doi: 10.3390/molecules20046319.


The increasing frequency of multi-drug resistant microorganisms has driven research into alternative therapeutic strategies. In this respect, natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) hold much promise as candidates for the development of novel antibiotics. However, AMPs have some intrinsic drawbacks, such as partial degradation by host proteases or inhibition by host body fluid composition, potential toxicity, and high production costs. This review focuses on the hepcidins, which are peptides produced by the human liver with a known role in iron homeostasis, as well by numerous other organisms (including fish, reptiles, other mammals), and their potential as antibacterial and antifungal agents. Interestingly, the antimicrobial properties of human hepcidins are enhanced at acidic pH, rendering these peptides appealing for the design of new drugs targeting infections that occur in body areas with acidic physiological pH. This review not only considers current research on the direct killing activity of these peptides, but evaluates the potential application of these molecules as coating agents preventing biofilm formation and critically assesses technical obstacles preventing their therapeutic application.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry*
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Hepcidins / chemistry*
  • Hepcidins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Peptide Hydrolases / chemistry


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Hepcidins
  • Peptide Hydrolases