Saliva contributes significantly to the protective barrier of oral epithelium through its mechanical rinsing action and the unique peptides it contains. Saliva contains several types of antimicrobial peptides, including defensins, which may have an important role in innate host defense. Many types of human defensins have been discovered and characterized in the last decade. This review summarizes the recent literature on salivary defensins and discusses their importance in oral health and disease. Salivary defensins are possibly derived from salivary ductal cells, oral epithelial cells and some blood cells. The antimicrobial activity of defensins may be affected by the components of saliva. Salivary defensin levels can be altered in oral diseases, and therefore may be a useful marker for risk assessment, salivary diagnosis and therapeutic strategies.
Keywords: Saliva, salivary gland, defensin, antimicrobial peptide, oral, gingival fluid, disease, clinical application
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