Species across the evolutionary scale from insects to mammals deploy peptides to counter microbial invaders. Although, there are considerable differences in the primary and secondary structures of these peptides, they exert their antimicrobial activity by common mechanisms ie. by membrane permeabilization. Extensive structure-function studies have been carried out on this class of antimicrobial peptides and ‘designer’ peptides have been generated which possess specific antimicrobial activity. In this article the physico-chemical properties and biological activities of host-defense peptides and ‘designer’ peptides would be reviewed with a view to explore whether they could be used as effective therapeutic agents.
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