Multifunctional cationic host defence peptides and their clinical applications

  • Amy T. Y. Yeung
  • Shaan L. Gellatly
  • Robert E. W. Hancock
Multi-author review


With the rapid rise in the emergence of bacterial strains resistant to multiple classes of antimicrobial agents, there is an urgent need to develop novel antimicrobial therapies to combat these pathogens. Cationic host defence peptides (HDPs) and synthetic derivatives termed innate defence regulators (IDRs) represent a promising alternative approach in the treatment of microbial-related diseases. Cationic HDPs (also termed antimicrobial peptides) have emerged from their origins as nature’s antibiotics and are widely distributed in organisms from insects to plants to mammals and non-mammalian vertebrates. Although their original and primary function was proposed to be direct antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi, parasites and/or viruses, cationic HDPs are becoming increasingly recognized as multifunctional mediators, with both antimicrobial activity and diverse immunomodulatory properties. Here we provide an overview of the antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activities of cationic HDPs, and discuss their potential application as beneficial therapeutics in overcoming infectious diseases.


Host defence peptide Antimicrobial Immunomodulatory Immunity Infection Therapeutics Chemoattractant Inflammation 



Antimicrobial peptide


Bovine myeloid antimicrobial peptide 27


Cell-penetrating peptide


Cathelin-related antimicrobial peptide


Chemokine receptor 4


Human beta-defensin 1


Host defence peptide


Human lactoferrin


Innate defence regulator


Interleukin 10


Porcine myeloid antimicrobial peptide 23


Human cathelicidin (aka hCAP18)




Lipoteichoic acid


Minimum inhibitory concentration


Migenix 226 (aka Omeganan)


Trans-activating transcriptional factor (aka Tat)


Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced protein 3 (aka A20)



We gratefully acknowledge financial support from Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). A.T.Y.Y. received studentships from Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CCFF) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). R.E.W.H. holds a Canada Research Chair.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy T. Y. Yeung
    • 1
  • Shaan L. Gellatly
    • 1
  • Robert E. W. Hancock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity ResearchUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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