Human antimicrobial peptides LL-37 and human β-defensin-2 reduce viral replication in keratinocytes infected with varicella zoster virus
Background. There is mounting evidence that antimicrobial peptides have an important role in cutaneous defence, but the expression of these antimicrobial peptides in atopic eczema (AE) is still unclear. There are several families of antimicrobial peptides, including cathelicidins and human β-defensins. Patients with AE are more susceptible to severe cutaneous viral infections, including varicella zoster virus (VZV). Aim. To characterize the functional activity of the antimicrobial peptides LL-37 (human cathelicidin) and human β-defensin (hBD)-2 keratinocytes were infected with VZV, in a skin-infection model. Methods. Flow-cytometry analysis was used to investigate LL-37 expression in normal human keratinocytes, and quantitative PCR was used to determine viral loads in infected HaCaT keratinocytes and B cells, with and without exogenous LL-37 and hBD-2. Results. LL-37 expression was present in keratinocytes, and both exogenous LL-37 and hBD-2 significantly reduced VZV load in infected keratinocytes and B cells. Specific antibodies blocked the antiviral action exhibited by these antimicrobial peptides. Preincubation of VZV with LL-37, but not hBD-2, further reduced VZV load. Conclusions. Both LL-37 and hBD-2 have an antiviral effect on VZV replication in the keratinocyte HaCaT cell line and in B cells, but their mechanism of action is different. Evidence of the relationship between antimicrobial peptide expression and higher susceptibility to infections in AE skin is still emerging. Developing novel antiviral therapies based on antimicrobial peptides may provide improved treatment options for patients with AE. © The Author(s) CED © 2012 British Association of Dermatologists.