In 1987, two peptides, secreted by the skin of the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis, were shown capable to kill a broad range of microorganisms and publicized as promising templates for antibiotics design. Ever since, hundreds of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have been identified in other amphibian species, fuelling the theory that these animals evolved a distinct immune component in their skin that provides first-line protection against infections. But is this what amphibian AMPs really evolved for? This project entails a series of experiments to explore additional functions of amphibian AMPs in both the immune system and in antipredator defense. On the one hand, we will investigate whether AMPs play additional roles in the immune response beyond killing microbes in the skin, including immune cell recruitment, proliferation or education. On the other hand, we will investigate, using both in vitro and in vivo techniques, whether these peptides themselves act as toxins in vertebrate predators (e.g. by cytotoxicity or by inducing an irritating/allergic reaction), or enhance the effect or delivery of other toxins to their target sites (e.g., by facilitating their uptake through the predator's mucosal epithelia). Besides increasing our understanding of the adaptive significance of these peptides to amphibians, we anticipate that this project will open new research avenues and widen the scope of potential therapeutic applications of amphibian AMPs.
Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/17

    Flemish discipline codes

  • Animal ecology
  • Animal biology

    Research areas

  • Toxinology, Amphibia, Antimicrobial peptide, Immune response, Antipredator defense

ID: 3560548