Dermal cytolytic peptides and the system of innate immunity in anurans

J. Michael Conlon, Shawichi Iwamuro, Jay D. King

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

51 Citations (Scopus)


Cationic peptides with the propensity to adopt an amphipathic α-helical conformation in a membrane-mimetic environment are synthesized in the skin of many species of frogs. These peptides frequently display potent cytolytic activities against a range of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, consistent with the hypothesis that they play a role in host defense. However, the importance of the peptides in the survival strategy of the animal is not clearly understood. At this time, antimicrobial peptides have been identified in the skin of frogs from species belonging to the Bombinatoridae, Hylidae, Hyperoliidae, Leiopelmatidae, Leptodactylidae, Myobatrachidae, Pipidae, and Ranidae families, but several well-studied species from the Bufonidae, Ceratophryidae, Dicroglossidae, Microhylidae, Pelobatidae, Pyxicephalidae, Rhacophoridae, and Scaphiopodidae families do not appear to synthesize these peptides. Although cytolytic activity against the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, responsible for anuran population declines worldwide, has been demonstrated in vitro, the ability of frog skin antimicrobial peptides to protect the animal in the wild appears to be limited. While the production of dermal cytolytic peptides may offer definite evolutionary advantage to anurans, their precise biological function, for example during metamorphosis, may need to be re-evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrends in Comparative Endocrinology and Neurobiology
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781573316712
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Frog skin
  • Host defense
  • Metamorphosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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