Host defence peptides (HDPs) are short, cationic amphipathic peptides with diverse sequences that are produced by various cells and tissues in all complex life forms. HDPs have important roles in the body's response to infection and inflammation. This Review focuses on human HDPs and explores the diverse immunomodulatory effects of HDPs from a systems biology perspective, which highlights the interconnected nature of the effect (or effects) of HDPs on the host. Studies have demonstrated that HDPs are expressed throughout the body and mediate a broad range of activities, which explains their association with various inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders. The diverse actions of HDPs, such as their roles in wound healing and in the maintenance of the microbiota, are also explored, in addition to potential therapeutic applications.
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