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We compared the susceptibilities of Chlamydia trachomatis elementary bodies (EBs) to human defensin HNP-2 and porcine protegrin PG-1, cysteine-rich beta-sheet antimicrobial peptides produced by mammalian leukocytes. Although both peptides protected McCoy cell monolayers from infection by chlamydial EBs, protegrins were especially potent. Protegrin-mediated inactivation of chlamydiae occurred rapidly, was relatively independent of the presence of serum, and was effective against serovars L2, D, and H. Protegrin-treated EBs showed striking morphological changes, with obvious damage to their limiting membranes and loss of their cytoplasmic contents and nucleoid. Their effectiveness against chlamydial EBs and other sexually transmitted pathogens combined with their relative lack of cytotoxicity suggests that protegrins and related molecules could serve as prototypes for topical agents to prevent sexually transmitted chlamydial infection.