Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 711–720

Cathelicidins - a family of multifunctional antimicrobial peptides

  • R. Bals
  • J. M. Wilson

DOI: 10.1007/s00018-003-2186-9

Cite this article as:
Bals, R. & Wilson, J. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2003) 60: 711. doi:10.1007/s00018-003-2186-9


One component of host defence at mucosal surfaces are epithelial-derived antimicrobial peptides. Cathelicidins are one family of antimicrobial peptides characterized by conserved pro-peptide sequences that have been identified in several mammalian species. LL-37/hCAP-18 is the only cathelicidin found in humans and is expressed in inflammatory and epithelial cells. Besides their direct antimicrobial function, cathelicidins have multiple roles as mediators of inflammation influencing diverse processes such as cell proliferation and migration, immune modulation, wound healing, angiogenesis and the release of cytokines and histamine. Finally, cathelicidin antimicrobial peptides qualify as prototypes of innovative drugs that may be used to treat infection and/or modulate the immune response. This review provides an overview of antimicrobial peptides of the cathelicidin family, the structures of their genes and peptides and their biological functions.

Key words. Cathelicidin; antimicrobial peptide; host defence; innate immunity; resistance.

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Bals
    • 1
  • J. M. Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonology, Hospital of the University of Marburg, Baldingerstrasse 1, 35043 Marburg (Germany), Fax + 49 6421 2868 987, e-mail: bals@mailer.uni-marburg.deDE
  2. 2.Institute for Human Gene Therapy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 (USA)US