Diversity, evolution and medical applications of insect antimicrobial peptides

Eleftherios Mylonakis, Lars Podsiadlowski, Maged Muhammed, Andreas Vilcinskas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


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 usewith antibiotics to restore the susceptibility ofmultidrug-resistant pathogens, and their use as templates for the rational design of peptidomimetic drugs that overcome the disadvantages of therapeutic peptides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150290
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1695
StatePublished - May 26 2016


  • Anti-infective
  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Drug development
  • Evolution
  • Immunity
  • Insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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