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Diversity, evolution and medical applications of insect antimicrobial peptides

: Mylonakis, E.; Podsiadlowski, L.; Muhammed, M.; Vilcinskas, A.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences 371 (2016), No.1695, Art. 20150290, 11 pp.
ISSN: 0080-4622
ISSN: 0264-3839
ISSN: 0962-8436
ISSN: 1471-2970
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IME ()

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are short proteins with antimicrobial activity. A large portion of known AMPs originate from insects, and the number and diversity of these molecules in different species varies considerably. Insect AMPs represent a potential source of alternative antibiotics to address the limitation of current antibiotics, which has been caused by the emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens. To get more insight into AMPs, we investigated the diversity and evolution of insect AMPs by mapping their phylogenetic distribution, allowing us to predict the evolutionary origins of selected AMP families and to identify evolutionarily conserved and taxon-specific families. Furthermore, we highlight the use of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a whole-animal model in high-throughput screening methods to identify AMPs with efficacy against human pathogens, including Acinetobacter baumanii and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. We also discuss the potential medical applications of AMPs, including their use as alternatives for conventional antibiotics in ectopic therapies, their combined use with antibiotics to restore the susceptibility of multidrug-resistant pathogens, and their use as templates for the rational design of peptidomimetic drugs that overcome the disadvantages of therapeutic peptides. The article is part of the themed issue 'Evolutionary ecology of arthropod antimicrobial peptides'.