Peptides with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity are found widely expressed throughout nature. As
they participate in a number of different aspects of innate immunity in mammals, they have been
termed host defense peptides (HDPs). Due to their common structural features, including an
amphipathic structure and cationic charge, they have been widely shown to interact with and disrupt
microbial membranes. Thus, it is not surprising that human HDPs have activity against enveloped viruses
as well as bacteria and fungi. However, these peptides also exhibit activity against a wide range of non-
enveloped viruses as well, acting at a number of different steps in viral infection. This review focuses on
the activity of human host defense peptides, including alpha- and beta-defensins and the sole human
cathelicidin, LL-37, against both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. The broad spectrum of antiviral
activity of these peptides, both in vitro and in vivo suggest that they play an important role in the innate
antiviral defense against viral infections. Furthermore, the literature suggests that they may be
developed into antiviral therapeutic agents.
Keywords: Antimicrobial peptide, host defense peptide, virus, defensin, LL-37, innate immunity.
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