Associate Professor Marc Kvansakul, ARC Future Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) are innate defense molecules produced by essentially all living species and represent a rich source of novel therapeutic molecules for the treatment of human diseases including cancer. Although several CAPs (mainly from amphibians and vertebrates) have been shown to exhibit direct toxicity against tumor cells, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. We are interested in the functional and structural basis of the anti-microbial activity of CAPs of different species, and our attention has centered on defensins, a family of CAPs from both plants and mammals. We uncovered phospholipids as an unexpected family of defensin ligands that are critical for the anti-microbial activity of defensins, and identified a novel mechanism of action underlying defensin mediated membrane attack.