One of the many functions of skin is to protect the organism against a wide range of pathogens. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) produced by the skin epithelium provide an effective chemical shield against microbial pathogens. However, whereas antibacterial/antifungal activities of AMPs have been extensively characterized, much less is known regarding their wound healing-modulatory properties. By using an in vitro re-epithelialisation assay employing special cell-culture inserts, we detected that a derivative of the frog-skin AMP esculentin-1a, named esculentin-1a(1-21)NH2, significantly stimulates migration of immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT cells) over a wide range of peptide concentrations (0.025-4 μM), and this notably more efficiently than human cathelicidin (LL-37). This activity is preserved in primary human epidermal keratinocytes. By using appropriate inhibitors and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay we found that the peptide-induced cell migration involves activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor and STAT3 protein. These results suggest that esculentin-1a(1-21)NH2 now deserves to be tested in standard wound healing assays as a novel candidate promoter of skin re-epithelialisation. The established ability of esculentin-1a(1-21)NH2 to kill microbes without harming mammalian cells, namely its high anti-Pseudomonal activity, makes this AMP a particularly attractive candidate wound healing promoter, especially in the management of chronic, often Pseudomonas-infected, skin ulcers.
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