Almost 90 years have passed since Alexander Fleming discovered the antimicrobial activity of lysozyme, the first natural antibiotic isolated from our body. Since then, various types of molecules with antibiotic activity have been isolated from animals, insects, plants and bacteria, and their use has revolutionised clinical medicine. So far, more than 1200 types of peptides with antimicrobial activity have been isolated from various cells and tissues, and it appears all living organisms employ these antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in their host defense. In the last decade, innate AMPs produced by mammals have been shown to be essential for the protection of skin and other organs. Their importance is due to their pleiotrophic functions to not only kill microbes but also control host physiological functions such as inflammation, angiogenesis and wound healing. Recent advances in our understanding of the function of AMPs have associated their altered production with various human diseases such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and rosacea. In this review, we summarize the history of AMP biology and provide an overview of recent research progress in this field.
Surface tissues of the body such as the skin and intestinal tract are in direct contact with the external environment and are thus continuously exposed to large numbers of microorganisms. To cope with the substantial microbial exposure, epithelial surfaces produce a diverse arsenal of antimicrobial proteins that directly kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. In this Review, we highlight new advances in our understanding of how epithelial antimicrobial proteins protect against pathogens and contribute to microbiota–host homeostasis at the skin and gut mucosae. Further, we discuss recent insights into the regulatory mechanisms that control antimicrobial protein expression. Finally, we consider how impaired antimicrobial protein expression and function can contribute to disease.
LL-23 is a natural peptide corresponding to the N-terminal 23 amino acid residues of human host defense cathelicidin LL-37. LL-23 demonstrated, compared to LL-37, a conserved ability to induce the chemokine MCP-1 in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, a lack of ability to suppress induction of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α in response to bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and reduced antimicrobial activity. Heteronuclear multidimensional NMR characterization of LL-23 revealed similar secondary structures and backbone dynamics in three membrane-mimetic micelles: SDS, dodecylphosphocholine (DPC), and dioctanoylphosphatidylglycerol. The NMR structure of LL-23 determined in perdeuterated DPC contained a unique serine that segregated the hydrophobic surface of the amphipathic helix into two domains. To gain further understanding, Ser9 of LL-23 was changed to either Ala or Val based on homologous primate cathelicidins. These changes made the hydrophobic surface of LL-23 continuous and enhanced antibacterial activity. While identical helical structures did not explain the altered activities, a reduced hydrogen-deuterium exchange from LL-23, LL-23A9, to LL-23V9 suggested a deeper penetration of LL-23V9 into the interior of the micelles, which correlated with enhanced activities. Moreover, these LL-23 variants had discrete immunomodulatory activities. Both restored the TNF-α dampening activity to the level of LL-37. Furthermore, LL-23A9, like LL-23, maintained superior protective MCP-1 production, while LL-23V9 was strongly immunosuppressive, preventing baseline MCP-1 induction and substantially reducing LPS-stimulated MCP-1 production. Thus, these LL-23 variants, designed based on a structural hot spot, are promising immune modulators that are easier to synthesize and less toxic to mammalian cells than the parent peptide LL-37.
Antimicrobial peptides; Drug design; immune modulating peptides; micelles; NMR; protein dynamics; structure-activity relationship (SAR)
Skin protects itself against infection through a variety of mechanisms. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are major contributors to cutaneous innate immunity, and this system, combined with the unique ionic, lipid and physical barrier of the epidermis is the first line defense against invading pathogens. However, recent studies have revealed that our skin’s innate immune system is not solely of human origin. Staphylococcus epidermidis, a major constituent of the normal microflora on healthy human skin, acts as a barrier against colonization of potentially pathogenic microbes and against overgrowth of already present opportunistic pathogens. Our resident commensal microbes produce their own AMPs, act to enhance the normal production of AMPs by keratinocytes, and are beneficial to maintaining inflammatory homeostasis by suppressing excess cytokine release after minor epidermal injury. These observations indicate that the normal human skin microflora protects skin via various modes of action, a conclusion supported by many lines of evidence associating diseases such as acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and rosacea with an imbalance of the microflora even in the absence of classical infection. This review highlights recent observations on the importance of innate immune systems and the relationship with the normal skin microflora to maintain healthy skin.
One characteristic abnormality of lesional skin in psoriasis is the excessive production of antimicrobial peptides and proteins (AMPs). AMPs typically are small (12–50 amino acids), have positive charge and amphipathic structure, and are found in all living organisms including mammals, insects, plants and invertebrates. These peptides are best known for their integral role in killing pathogenic microorganisms; however, in vertebrates, they are also capable of modifying host inflammatory responses by a variety of mechanisms. In psoriatic lesions, many AMPs are highly expressed, and especially the associations between psoriasis and cathelicidin, β-defensins or S100 proteins have been well studied. Among them, a cathelicidin peptide, LL-37, has been highlighted as a modulator of psoriasis development in recent years. AMPs had been thought to worsen psoriatic lesions but recent evidence has also suggested the possibility that the induction of AMPs expression might improve aspects of the disease. Further investigations are needed to uncover a previously under-appreciated role for AMPs in modulating the immune response in psoriasis, and to improve disease without the risks of systemic immunosuppressive approaches.
antimicrobial peptides; cathelicidin; LL-37; psoriasis; Toll-like receptor
Antimicrobial peptides such as human β-defensins (hBDs) and cathelicidins are critical for protection against infection and can be induced by activation of TLRs, a pathway that also activates cyclooxygenase(Cox)-2 expression. We hypothesized that Cox-2 is induced by TLR activation and is necessary for optimal AMP production, and that inhibitors of Cox-2 may therefore inhibit antimicrobial action. Normal human keratinocytes (NHEKs) stimulated with a TLR2/6 ligand, macrophage-activating lipo-peptide-2, or a TLR3 ligand, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, increased Cox-2 mRNA and protein and increased PGE2, a product of Cox-2. Treatment with a Cox-2 selective inhibitor (SC-58125) or Cox-2 small interfering RNA attenuated hBD2 and hBD3 production in NHEKs when stimulated with macrophage-activating lipopeptide-2, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, or UVB (15 mJ/cm2), but it did not attenuate vitamin D3-induced cathelicidin. SC-58125 also inhibited TLR-dependent NF-κB activation. Conversely, treatment with Cox-derived prostanoids PGD2 or 15-deoxy-Δ12,14-PGJ2 induced hBD3 or hBD2 and hBD3, respectively. The functional significance of these observations was seen in NHEKs that showed reduced anti-staphylococcal activity when treated with a Cox-2 inhibitor. These findings demonstrate a critical role for Cox-2 in hBD production and suggest that the use of Cox-2 inhibitors may adversely influence the risk for bacterial infection.
Recent global radiation fears reflect the urgent need for a new modality that can simply determine if people are in a radiation risk of developing cancer and other illnesses. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been thought to be the major risk factor for most skin cancers. Although various biomarkers derived from the responses of human cells have been revealed, detection of these biomarkers is cumbersome, probably requires taking live human tissues, and varies significantly depending on human immune status. Here we hypothesize that the reaction of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), a human resident skin commensal, to UV radiation can serve as early surrogate markers for radiation risk because the bacteria are immediately responsive to radiation. In addition, the bacteria can be readily accessible and exposed to the same field of radiation as human body. To test our hypothesis, P. acnes was exposed to UV-B radiation. The production of porphyrins in P. acnes was significantly reduced with increasing doses of UV-B. The porphyrin reduction can be detected in both P. acnes and human skin bacterial isolates. Exposure of UV-B to P. acnes- inoculated mice led to a significant decrease in porphyrin production in a single colony of P. acnes and simultaneously induced the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPD) in the epidermal layers of mouse skin. Mass spectrometric analysis via a linear trap quadrupole (LTQ)-Orbitrap XL showed that five peptides including an internal peptide (THLPTGIVVSCQNER) of a peptide chain release factor 2 (RF2) were oxidized by UV-B. Seven peptides including three internal peptides of 60 kDa chaperonin 1 were de-oxidized by UV-B. When compared to UV-B, gamma radiation also decreased the porphyrin production of P. acnes in a dose-dependent manner, but induced a different signature of protein oxidation/de-oxidation. We highlight that uncovering response of skin microbiome to radiation will facilitate the development of pre-symptomatic diagnosis of radiation risk in a battlefield exposure, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, or cancer imaging/therapy.
Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty with stent implantation is used to dilate of arteries narrowed by atherosclerotic plaques and to revascularize coronary arteries occluded by atherothrombosis in myocardial infarction. Commonly applied drug-eluting stents release anti-proliferative or anti-inflammatory agents to reduce the incidence of in-stent stenosis. However, these stents may lead to in-stent stenosis and increase the rate late stent thrombosis, an obstacle to optimal revascularization possibly related to endothelial recovery. Here we examined the contribution of neutrophils and neutrophilic granule proteins to arterial healing after injury. We found that neutrophil-born cathelicidin (mouse CRAMP, human LL-37) promoted re-endothelization and thereby limited neointima formation after stent implantation. We then translated these findings, generating a neutrophil-instructing biofunctionalized miniaturized Nitinol stent coated with LL-37. This stent reduced in-stent stenosis in a mouse model of atherosclerosis, suggesting that LL-37 may promote vascular healing after interventional therapy.
Mammalian antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) play an important role in host defense via direct antimicrobial activity as well as immune regulation. The mouse cathelin-related antimicrobial peptide (mCRAMP), produced from the mouse gene Camp, is the only mouse cathelicidin identified and the ortholog of the human gene encoding the peptide LL-37. This study tested the hypothesis that mouse B and T cells produce and respond to mCRAMP. We show that all mature mouse B-cell subsets, including follicular (FO), marginal zone (MZ), B1a, and B1b cells, as well as CD4+ and CD8+ T cells produce Camp mRNA and mCRAMP protein. Camp−/− B cells produced equivalent levels of IgM, IgG3, and IgG2c but less IgG1 and IgE, while Camp−/− CD4+ T cells cultured in Th2-inducing conditions produced more IL-4-expressing cells when compared with WT cells, effects that were reversed upon addition of mCRAMP. In vivo, Camp−/− mice immunized with TNP-OVA absorbed in alum produced an enhanced TNP-specific IgG1 response when compared with WT mice. ELISpot analysis revealed increased numbers of TNP-specific IgG1-secreting splenic B cells and FACS analysis revealed increased CD4+ T-cell IL-4 expression. Our results suggest that mCRAMP differentially regulates B- and T-cell function and implicate mCRAMP in the regulation of adaptive immune responses.
Antibody; Cytokine; IgG1; mCRAMP
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are an essential and multifunctional element for immune defense of the skin during infection and injury. In this issue, Ahrens et al. characterize the response of β-defensins, a class of AMPs, following acute and chronic challenges to the permeability barrier of the skin. Their findings suggest that the antimicrobial and permeability barriers of the skin are closely linked.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are the most frequent skin cancers in humans. An intact immune system is critical for protection against SCC since organ transplant recipients (OTR) have a 60- to 100-fold higher risk for developing these tumors. The role of the innate immune system in tumor immunosurveillance is unclear. Our aim was to determine the expression of selected innate immune genes in BCC and SCC arising in immunocompetent and OTR patients. Lesional and peri-lesional skin from 28 SCC and 19 BCC were evaluated for mRNA expression of toll-like receptors (TLR) 1–9, downstream TLR signaling molecules, and antimicrobial peptides. 11 SCC occurring in OTR patients were included in the analysis. We found that SCC but not BCC showed significantly elevated expression of TLRs 1–3, 5–8, TRIF and TRAF1. TNF was increased in SCC compared to normal skin. BCC showed increased IFNγ. hBD1, hBD2 and psoriasin mRNA and protein expression were significantly higher in SCC than in normal skin and higher than in BCC. SCC from OTR showed only an increase in hBD2 but no increase in hBD1 or psoriasin. We conclude that innate immune gene expression in SCC is distinct from normal skin and BCC. BCC shows lesser induction of innate immune genes. SCC from OTR patients have depressed expression of hBD1 and psoriasin compared to SCC from immunocompetent patients.
Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria play a key role in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Although our previous studies have demonstrated that vaccines targeting a surface sialidase or bacterial particles exhibit a preventive effect against P. acnes, the lack of therapeutic activities and incapability of neutralizing secretory virulence factors motivate us to generate novel immunotherapeutics. In this study, we develop an immunotherapeutic antibody to secretory Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson (CAMP) factor of P. acnes. Via agroinfiltration, P. acnes CAMP factor was encapsulated into the leaves of radishes. ICR mice intranasally immunized with whole leaves expressing CAMP factor successfully produced neutralizing antibodies that efficiently attenuated P. acnes-induced ear swelling and production of macrophage-inflammatory protein-2. Passive neutralization of CAMP factor enhanced immunity to eradicate P. acnes at the infection site without influencing bacterial growth elsewhere. We propose that CAMP factor is a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of various P. acnes-associated diseases and highlight the concept of neutralizing P. acnes virulence without disturbing the bacterial commensalism in human micorbiome.
Acne vulgaris; Agroinfiltration; Passive immunization; Propionibacterium acnes; Radish leaves
atopic dermatitis; eczema herpeticum; claudin-1
Here we show that keratinocytes in psoriatic lesional skin express increased Toll-like receptor (TLR) 9 that similarly localizes with elevated expression of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide LL-37. In culture, normal human keratinocytes exposed to LL-37 increased TLR9 expression. Furthermore, when keratinocytes were exposed to LL-37 and subsequently treated with TLR9 ligands such as CpG or genomic DNA, keratinocytes greatly increased production of type I interferons. This response mimicked observations in the epidermis of psoriatic lesional skin as keratinocytes in psoriatic lesions produce greater amounts of interferon-β than normal skin lacking LL-37. The mechanism for induction of type I interferons in keratinocytes was dependent on TLR9 expression but not on a DNA-LL-37 complex. These findings suggest that keratinocytes recognize and respond to DNA and can actively participate in contributing to the immunological environment that characterizes psoriasis.
The enteric protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica is the cause of potentially fatal amebic colitis and liver abscesses. E. histolytica trophozoites colonize the colon, where they induce inflammation, penetrate the mucosa, and disrupt the host immune system. The early establishment of E. histolytica in the colon occurs in the presence of antimicrobial human (LL-37) and murine (CRAMP [cathelin-related antimicrobial peptide]) cathelicidins, essential components of the mammalian innate defense system in the intestine. Studying this early step in the pathogenesis of amebic colitis, we demonstrate that E. histolytica trophozoites or their released proteinases, including cysteine proteinase 1 (EhCP1), induce intestinal cathelicidins in human intestinal epithelial cell lines and in a mouse model of amebic colitis. Despite induction, E. histolytica trophozoites were found to be resistant to killing by these antimicrobial peptides, and LL-37 and CRAMP were rapidly cleaved by released amebic cysteine proteases. The cathelicidin fragments however, did maintain their antimicrobial activity against bacteria. Degradation of intestinal cathelicidins is a novel function of E. histolytica cysteine proteinases in the evasion of the innate immune system in the bowel. Thus, early intestinal epithelial colonization of invasive trophozoites involves a complex interplay in which the ultimate outcome of infection depends in part on the balance between degradation of cathelicidins by amebic released cysteine proteinases and upregulation of proinflammatory mediators which trigger the inflammatory response.
Fragments of hyaluronan released after injury bind and activate TLR4 in a complex with CD44. Here we investigated if the recognition of hyaluronan by CD44 and TLR4 alters lipopolysaccaride (LPS) responsiveness and thus could alter the septic response. In contrast to mice injected with LPS, mice exposed to hyaluronan prior to LPS had greatly decreased serum IL-6 and TNFα and were protected from symptoms of sepsis. The protective effect of HA was not seen in Cd44−/− mice. Consistent with our findings in vivo, addition of hyaluronan to macrophages before LPS exposure significantly decreased the release of IL-6 and TNFα and this effect was not seen in macrophages from Cd44−/− mice. Investigation of the mechanism responsible for inhibition of LPS activation showed hyaluronan treatment resulted in an increase in peritoneal macrophage A20 mRNA expression, and that this was significantly reduced in macrophages from Cd44−/− mice and Tlr4 −/− mice. Suppression of the A20 response with siRNA inhibited the ability of hyaluronan to protect against the cytokine response to LPS. Therefore, our results show that hyaluronan acts through TLR4, CD44 and A20 to stimulate a unique cellular response that can protect against the septic response to LPS.
Hyaluronan; CD44; Toll-like receptor-4; endotoxic shock
Cathelicidin-type antimicrobial peptides (CAMP) are important mediators of innate immunity against microbial pathogens acting through direct interaction with and disruption of microbial membranes and indirectly through modulation of host cell migration and activation. Using a mouse knock-out model in CAMP we studied the role of this host peptide in control of dissemination of cutaneous infection by the parasitic protozoan Leishmania. The presence of pronounced host inflammatory infiltration in lesions and lymph nodes of infected animals was CAMP-dependent. Lack of CAMP expression was associated with higher levels of IL-10 receptor expression in bone marrow, splenic and lymph node macrophages as well as higher anti-inflammatory IL-10 production by bone marrow macrophages and spleen cells but reduced production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12 and IFN-γ by lymph nodes. Unlike wild-type mice, local lesions were exacerbated and parasites were found largely disseminated in CAMP knockouts. Infection of CAMP knockouts with parasite mutants lacking the surface metalloprotease virulence determinant resulted in more robust disseminated infection than in control animals suggesting that CAMP activity is negatively regulated by parasite surface proteolytic activity. This correlated with the ability of the pro-tease to degrade CAMP in vitro and co-localization of CAMP with parasites within macrophages. Our results highlight the interplay of antimicrobial peptides and Leishmania that influence the host immune response and the outcome of infection.
Cathelicidin has dual functions in the skin, acting as an innate antibiotic and as an immunomodulator in diseases such as rosacea and psoriasis. The serine proteases kallikrein 5 (KLK5) and kallikrein 7 (KLK7) control enzymatic processing of cathelicidin precursor in the skin and regulate the eventual function of the final forms of these peptides. We analyzed factors that control expression of KLK5 and KLK7 in normal human epidermal keratinocytes to better understand how these may influence cathelicidin processing and function. Increased extracellular calcium-induced KLK5 and KLK7 mRNA expression and protein release in a time-dependent manner that is similar to induction of differentiation markers such as keratin 10 and involucrin. However, 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3, 9-cis retinoic acid (RA), and 13-cisRA also induced the KLKs, but the timing and pattern of KLK induction for each were different and distinct from changes in differentiation markers. Increased protease activity and differential processing of cathelicidin accompanied increased KLK expression. These findings show that the expression and activity of KLK are under fine control and can be distinctly influenced by variables such as differentiation, calcium, vitamin D, and RA. Thus, these variables may further control the functions of antimicrobial peptides in the skin.
Innate immune responses involve the production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), chemokines, and cytokines. We report here the identification of B-cell leukemia (Bcl)-3 as a modulator of innate immune signaling in keratinocytes. In this study, it is shown that Bcl-3 is inducible by the Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 and is overexpressed in lesional skin of atopic dermatitis (AD) patients. Bcl-3 was shown to be important to cutaneous innate immune responses as silencing of Bcl-3 by small-interfering RNA (siRNA) reversed the downregulatory effect of IL-4 on the HBD3 expression. Bcl-3 silencing enhanced vitamin D3 (1,25D3)-induced gene expression of cathelicidin AMP in keratinocytes, suggesting a negative regulatory function on cathelicidin transcription. Furthermore, 1,25D3 suppressed Bcl-3 expression in vitro and in vivo. This study identified Bcl-3 as an important modulator of cutaneous innate immune responses and its possible therapeutic role in AD.
The skin is the ultimate example of the function of innate immunity, it alerts the host of danger by many systems including sensing pathogen-associated molecule patterns (PAMPs) through Toll-like receptors and other pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), yet normally provides defense without inflammation. The skin responds rapidly to invading microbes by producing antimicrobial peptides or other antimicrobial intermediates before cytokine release results in inflammation. To achieve maximal immune responses for clearing invading microbes, the activation of select PRRs in skin then initiates and shapes adaptive immune responses through the activation of dendritic cells and recruitment of T cell subsets. Importantly, cross-talk between TLRs can influence this system in several ways including augmenting or suppressing the immune response. As a consequence of their pivotal role, TLR responses need to be tightly controlled by associated negative regulators or negative feedback loops to prevent detrimental effects from TLRs overactivation. This review focuses on describing the involvement of TLRs in the development of skin infectious and inflammatory diseases, and highlights the potential application of TLR agonists or antagonists in these skin diseases.
Toll-like receptors; TLR signaling; inflammatory cytokines; antimicrobial peptides; cross talk; negative regulators; skin infectious and inflammatory diseases
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that is mediated by elements of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Its characteristic features in the skin consist of inflammatory changes in both dermis and epidermis, with abnormal keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation. Despite the elucidation of many aspects of psoriasis pathogenesis, some puzzling questions remain to be answered. A major question currently debated is if psoriasis is a primary abnormality of the epidermal keratinocyte or a reflection of dysregulated bone-marrow derived immunocytes. In this review we will focus on understanding the role of the innate immune system in psoriasis and how this provides a rational solution to address the origin of this multifactorial disease. Innate immunity is non-specific and genetically-based. It protects the body against the constant risk of pathogens through the use of rapidly mobilized defenses that are able to recognize and kill a wide variety of threats (bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc.). The key mechanisms of innate immune responses are the existence of receptors to recognize pathogens, and the production of factors that kill pathogens, such as antimicrobial peptides and proteins. Any combination of excessive sensitivity of the innate detection system, or dysregulation of the response system, can manifest both an epidermal phenotype and abnormal T-cell function. Thus, the multidimensional action of the innate immune system, its triggers, and its recently understood role in T-cell function, argue for an important role for innate mechanisms of recognition and response in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.
The innate immune system evolved over 2 billion years ago to first recognize pathogens then eradicate them. Several distinct defects in this ancient but rapidly responsive element of human immune defense account for the increased incidence of skin infections in atopics. These defects include abnormalities in the physical barrier of the epidermis, alterations in microbial pattern recognition receptors such as toll receptors and NOD, and a diminished capacity to increase the expression of antimicrobial peptides during inflammation. Several antimicrobial peptides are affected including; cathelicidin, HBD-2, and HBD-3, which are lower in lesional skin of atopics compared to other inflammatory skin diseases, and dermcidin, which is decreased in sweat. Other defects in the immune defense barrier of atopics include a relative deficiency in plasmacytoid dendritic cells. In the future, understanding the cause of these defects may allow therapeutic intervention to reduce the incidence of infection in atopic individuals and potentially decrease the severity of this disorder.
The innate immune system is primarily responsible for prevention of infection of the skin by pathogens, but is also important in control of inflammation. The components of innate immunity are frequently misunderstood based on a historical bias for leukocyte-mediated immune defense. Many participating cell types are often overlooked, in particular epithelial cells that provide an early and critical step to innate immune defense. This review will discuss our epithelial barrier to infection with emphasis on how microbes subvert this system, and human diseases associated with these events.
Mast cells (MC) express cathelicidin antimicrobial peptides that act as broad-spectrum antibiotics and influence the immune defense of multiple epithelial surfaces. We hypothesized that MC help protect against skin infection through the expression of cathelicidin. The susceptibility of MC-deficient mice (Kit Wsh−/−) to invasive group A streptococcus (GAS) was compared with control mice. Following s.c. injection of GAS, MC-deficient mice had 30% larger skin lesions, 80% more lesional bacteria, and 30% more spleens positive for bacteria. In contrast to results obtained when GAS was injected into skin, no significant differences were noted between MC-deficient mice and control mice after GAS was applied topically, indicating that MC activity is most important after barrier penetration. To determine whether these differences were due to MC expression of cathelicidin, MC-deficient mice were reconstituted with MC derived from either wild-type or cathelicidin-deficient (Camp−/−) mice and challenged with GAS. Forty-eight hours after bacterial injection, mice that did not receive MC had an average lesion size of 200 mm2, mice reconstituted with wild-type MC showed lesions comparable to control mice (25 mm2), while mice reconstituted with Camp−/− MC showed an average lesion size of 120 mm2. Surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF-MS) analysis of cathelicidin peptide purified from mast cells defined this as a unique 28-aa peptide. Combined, these results show that MC confer defense against Gram-positive bacterial infection in the skin, a function mediated in part by the expression of a unique cathelicidin peptide.
The capacity of the skin and other organs to resist infection depends on the innate production of molecules known as antimicrobial peptides. Emerging evidence suggests that some of these peptides are important to immune defense by acting not only as natural antibiotics but also as cell-signaling molecules. In this issue Carretero et al. (2007) expand on these findings by demonstrating that expression of human cathelicidin alters multiple signaling pathways in a keratinocyte cell line and enhances wound re-epithelialization in ob/ob mice.