Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are crucial effectors of the innate immune system. They provide the first line of defense against a variety of pathogens. AMPs display synergistic effects with conventional antibiotics, and thus present the potential for combined therapies. Insects are extremely resistant to bacterial infections. Insect AMPs are cationic and comprise less than 100 amino acids. These insect peptides exhibit an antimicrobial effect by disrupting the microbial membrane and do not easily allow microbes to develop drug resistance. Currently, membrane mechanisms underlying the antimicrobial effects of AMPs are proposed by different modes: the barrel-stave mode, toroidal-pore, carpet, and disordered toroidal-pore are the typical modes. Positive charge quantity, hydrophobic property and the secondary structure of the peptide are important for the antibacterial activity of AMPs. At present, several structural families of AMPs from insects are known (defensins, cecropins, drosocins, attacins, diptericins, ponericins, metchnikowins, and melittin), but new AMPs are frequently discovered. We reviewed the biological effects of the major insect AMPs. This review will provide further information that facilitates the study of insect AMPs and shed some light on novel microbicides.
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