About Defensins

Figure 1: Histogram showing the number of articles published on defensins. The search query ‘defensin’ was performed using the academic version of SciFinder Scholar 2007. (Data correct as of 29 April 2008)


Defensins are one of the largest and most studied families of antimicrobial peptides. More than 300 defensins have been identified so far and they are represented in a range of organisms including mammals, birds, invertebrates, plants and recently in the ebony-cup fungus.

Defensin peptides are essentially ancient natural antibiotics with antimicrobial activity against a range of microorganisms: gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, fungi and some viruses. In addition to their antimicrobial activity, emerging evidence suggest that they can also assume fundamental roles in both innate and adaptive immunity. Almost all defensins discovered so far are multiple-disulphide bonded with a cationic charge and an amphipathic design.

This section will in the near future be updated with mini reviews on topics such as: the current classification of defensins, their discovery and initial characterization, their detailed structural characteristics, biosynthesis, their emerging roles, cytotoxicity, evolution, their implications in diseases, synthetic defensins as well as their mechanisms of action and membrane interactions.