Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have been identified throughout the metazoa suggesting their evolutionarily conserved nature and their presence in teleosts is no exception. AMPs are short (18–46 amino acids), usually cationic, amphipathic peptides. While AMPs are diverse in amino acid sequence, with no two AMPs being identical, they collectively appear to have conserved functions in the innate immunity of animals towards the pathogens they encounter in their environment. Fish AMPs are upregulated in response to pathogens and appear to have direct broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity towards both human and fish pathogens. However, an emerging role for AMPs as immunomodulatory molecules has become apparent—the ability of AMPs to activate the innate immune system sheds light onto the multifaceted capacity of these small peptides to combat pathogens through direct and indirect means. Herein, this review focuses on the role of teleost AMPs as modulators of the innate immune system and their regulation in response to pathogens or other exogenous molecules. The capacity to regulate AMP expression by exogenous factors may prove useful in modulating AMP expression in fish to prevent disease, particularly in aquaculture settings where crowded conditions and environmental stress pre-dispose these fish to infection.
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