Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are phylogenetically ancient substances released by living organisms
for self protection against a broad variety of microbes. Moreover, AMPs are endowed with immune modulatory
activities, linking innate and adaptive immunity together. Lantibiotics are AMPs of bacterial origin currently
investigated for the generation of a new class of anti-infective compounds, owing to the phenomenon of antibiotic
resistance against a broad variety of bacteria. Also, plants and marine AMPs are screened as novel drugs against
human pathogens. Human AMPs encompass defensins and cathelicidins produced by various cell types mostly at
mucosal sites. Besides their antimicrobial activity, both AMPs have been shown to trigger either inflammatory or
anti-inflammatory pathways. Food-derived AMPs are mostly represented by lactoferrin and lysozyme both present
in secretions, e.g., milk, and appear to be very exploitable for the generation of functional foods. Finally, the
role of natural products ingested with food or administered as supplements on induction and production of AMPs
will be discussed.
Keywords: Antimicrobial peptides, cathelicidins, defensins, immune response, phylogenesis, resistance to antibiotics.
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