Evidence of Positively Selected Sites in Mammalian α-Defensins

David Lynn, Andrew T. Lloyd, Mario A. Fares, Cliona O'Farrelly

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66 Citations (Scopus)


α-Defensins are a family of mammalian antimicrobial peptides that exhibit variable activity against a panel of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and enveloped viruses. We have employed a maximum-likelihood approach to detect evidence of positive selection (adaptive evolution) in the evolution of these important molecules of the innate immune response. We have identified 14 amino acid sites that are predicted to be subject to positive selection. Furthermore, we show that all these sites are located in the mature antimicrobial peptide and not in the prepropeptide region of the molecule, implying that they are of functional importance. These results suggest that mammalian α-defensins have been under selective pressure to evolve in response to potentially infectious challenges by fast-evolving microbes.

Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2004


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • α-defensin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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