Antimicrobial Peptides: An Introduction

  • Evan F. Haney
  • Sarah C. Mansour
  • Robert E. W. HancockEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1548)


The “golden era” of antibiotic discovery has long passed, but the need for new antibiotics has never been greater due to the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance. This urgency to develop new antibiotics has motivated researchers to find new methods to combat pathogenic microorganisms resulting in a surge of research focused around antimicrobial peptides (AMPs; also termed host defense peptides) and their potential as therapeutics. During the past few decades, more than 2000 AMPs have been identified from a diverse range of organisms (animals, fungi, plants, and bacteria). While these AMPs share a number of common features and a limited number of structural motifs; their sequences, activities, and targets differ considerably. In addition to their antimicrobial effects, AMPs can also exhibit immunomodulatory, anti-biofilm, and anticancer activities. These diverse functions have spurred tremendous interest in research aimed at understanding the activity of AMPs, and various protocols have been described to assess different aspects of AMP function including screening and evaluating the activities of natural and synthetic AMPs, measuring interactions with membranes, optimizing peptide function, and scaling up peptide production. Here, we provide a general overview of AMPs and introduce some of the methodologies that have been used to advance AMP research.

Key words

Antimicrobial peptides Host defense peptides Immunomodulatory function Antibiofilm activity 



The authors acknowledge all the members of the Hancock Lab (both past and present) for their valuable input and discussions regarding antimicrobial, antibiofilm, and immunomodulatory peptides. This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [funding reference number MOP-74493]. REWH holds a Canada Research Chair.


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© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evan F. Haney
    • 1
  • Sarah C. Mansour
    • 1
  • Robert E. W. Hancock
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Microbial Diseases and Immunity ResearchUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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