Widespread expression of beta-defensin hBD-1 in human secretory glands and epithelial cells

FEBS Lett. 1996 Nov 4;396(2-3):319-22. doi: 10.1016/0014-5793(96)01123-4.


We compared the expression of human alpha- and beta-defensins by various human tissues. mRNA for alpha-defensins HNP1-3, abundant in bone marrow, was detected in peripheral blood leukocytes, spleen and thymus by RT-PCR, which revealed alpha-defensins HD5 and HD6 only in the small intestine. In contrast, the pancreas and kidney expressed high levels of hBD-1 and lower levels of this beta-defensin were found in many organs by RT-PCR (salivary gland > trachea > prostate and placenta > thymus, testis, small intestine). hBD-1 mRNA was produced constitutively by cultured normal human epithelial cells derived from the trachea, bronchi, small airways and the mammary gland. These largely non-overlapping tissue distributions of human alpha- and beta-defensins suggest that hBD-1 may be positioned to defend epithelial cells and mucosae from infection, whereas expression of HNP1-3 in neutrophils and HD5 and HD6 in Paneth cells allows these alpha-defensins to participate in systemic and small intestinal host defenses, respectively.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Blood Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Blood Proteins / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Defensins
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / pharmacology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Respiratory System / metabolism
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology
  • alpha-Defensins*
  • beta-Defensins*


  • Blood Proteins
  • DEFB1 protein, human
  • Defensins
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • alpha-Defensins
  • beta-Defensins
  • human neutrophil peptide 1
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate