Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 13, pp 2189–2199

Protecting the boundary: the sentinel role of host defense peptides in the skin

Multi-author review

DOI: 10.1007/s00018-011-0712-8

Cite this article as:
Bernard, J.J. & Gallo, R.L. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2011) 68: 2189. doi:10.1007/s00018-011-0712-8


The skin is our primary shield against microbial pathogens and has evolved innate and adaptive strategies to enhance immunity in response to injury or microbial insult. The study of antimicrobial peptide (AMP) production in mammalian skin has revealed several of the elegant strategies that AMPs use to prevent infection. AMPs are inducible by both infection and injury and protect the host by directly killing pathogens and/or acting as multifunctional effector molecules that trigger cellular responses to aid in the anti-infective and repair response. Depending on the specific AMP, these molecules can influence cytokine production, cell migration, cell proliferation, differentiation, angiogenesis and wound healing. Abnormal production of AMPs has been associated with the pathogenesis of several cutaneous diseases and plays a role in determining a patient’s susceptibility to pathogens. This review will discuss current research on the regulation and function of AMPs in the skin and in skin disorders.


Antimicrobial peptidesDefensinCathelicidinInnate immunitySkin diseasesKeratinocytes



Antimicrobial peptides


Human beta-defensins




Lipoteichoic acid


Mitogen-activated protein kinase


Phenol-soluble modulins


Toll-like receptor


Vitamin D receptor

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Dermatology, Department of MedicineUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA