Over the past 20years, there have been significant inroads into understanding the roles of antimicrobial peptides in homeostatic functions and their involvement in disease pathogenesis. In addition to direct antimicrobial activity, these peptides participate in many cellular functions, including chemotaxis, wound healing and even determination of canine coat colour. Various biological and genetic approaches have helped to elucidate the role of antimicrobial peptides with respect to innate immunity and host defense. Associations of antimicrobial peptides with various skin diseases, including psoriasis, rosacea and atopic dermatitis, have been documented in humans. In the longer term, therapeutic modulation of antimicrobial peptide expression may provide effective new treatments for disease. This review highlights current knowledge about antimicrobial peptides of the skin and circulating leukocytes, with particular focus on relevance to physiology and disease in companion animals.
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