Innate immune responses function as a first line of host defense against the development of bacterial infection, and in some cases to preserve the sterility of privileged sites in the human host. Bacteria that enter these sites must counter host responses for colonization. From the host’s perspective, the innate immune system works expeditiously to minimize the bacterial threat before colonization and subsequent dysbiosis. The multifactorial nature of disease further challenges predictions of how each independent variable influences bacterial pathogenesis. From bacterial colonization to infection and through disease, the microenvironments of the host are in constant flux as bacterial and host factors contribute to changes at the host-pathogen interface, with the host attempting to eradicate bacteria and the bacteria fighting to maintain residency. A key component of this innate host response towards bacterial infection is the production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). As an early component of the host response, AMPs modulate bacterial load and prevent establishment of infection. Under quiescent conditions, some AMPs are constitutively expressed by the epithelium. Bacterial infection can subsequently induce production of other AMPs in an effort to maintain sterility, or to restrict colonization. As demonstrated in various studies, the absence of a single AMP can influence pathogenesis, highlighting the importance of AMP concentration in maintaining homeostasis. Yet, AMPs can increase bacterial virulence through the co-opting of the peptides or alteration of bacterial virulence gene expression. Further, bacterial factors used to subvert AMPs can modify host microenvironments and alter colonization of the residential flora that principally maintain homeostasis. Thus, the dynamic interplay between host defense peptides and bacterial factors produced to quell peptide activity play a critical role in the progression and outcome of disease.
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