Cationic antimicrobial peptides and their multifunctional role in the immune system

M. G. Scott, Robert Hancock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Citations (Scopus)


Many species of life contain cationic antimicrobial peptides as components of their immune systems. The antimicrobial activity of these peptides has been studied extensively, and many peptides have a broad spectrum of activity not only against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria but also against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Such cationic antimicrobial peptides can also act in synergy with host molecules, such as other cationic peptides and proteins, lysozyme, and also conventional antibiotics, to kill microbes. It has been found that certain peptides are produced in large quantities at sites of infection/inflammation, and their expression can be induced by bacterial products such as endotoxic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). These peptides often have a high affinity for bacterial products, such as LPS, allowing them to modulate the host response and reduce the inflammatory response in sepsis. More recently, they have been found to interact directly with host cells to modulate the inflammatory process and innate defenses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-431
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Reviews in Immunology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial
  • Cationic peptides
  • Inflammation
  • Innate immunity
  • Lipopolysaccharide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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