Defense against the susceptibility and damaging effects of urinary tract infection is complex and vital, as injury can lead to progressive renal injury and chronic renal failure. Recently the defensins, a family of small cationic antimicrobial peptides found in neutrophils and renal epithelial cells, have been shown to have a number of key biological properties that equip them to undertake a pivotal role in combating infection. We describe the capability of these ubiquitous and abundant peptides in the process of innate immunity, and more recently discovered roles in the adaptive immune response to infection. Furthermore, we also discuss their potential to influence other key components of the inflammatory response to infection. Despite the current state of knowledge, we are only just beginning to understand the significance of defensins as pivotal peptides in host defence and their possibilities as therapeutic targets of the future.

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