PLoS pathogens

Novel anti-bacterial activities of β-defensin 1 in human platelets: suppression of pathogen growth and signaling of neutrophil extracellular trap formation.

PMID 22102811


Human β-defensins (hBD) are antimicrobial peptides that curb microbial activity. Although hBD's are primarily expressed by epithelial cells, we show that human platelets express hBD-1 that has both predicted and novel antibacterial activities. We observed that activated platelets surround Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), forcing the pathogens into clusters that have a reduced growth rate compared to S. aureus alone. Given the microbicidal activity of β-defensins, we determined whether hBD family members were present in platelets and found mRNA and protein for hBD-1. We also established that hBD-1 protein resided in extragranular cytoplasmic compartments of platelets. Consistent with this localization pattern, agonists that elicit granular secretion by platelets did not readily induce hBD-1 release. Nevertheless, platelets released hBD-1 when they were stimulated by α-toxin, a S. aureus product that permeabilizes target cells. Platelet-derived hBD-1 significantly impaired the growth of clinical strains of S. aureus. hBD-1 also induced robust neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation by target polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), which is a novel antimicrobial function of β-defensins that was not previously identified. Taken together, these data demonstrate that hBD-1 is a previously-unrecognized component of platelets that displays classic antimicrobial activity and, in addition, signals PMNs to extrude DNA lattices that capture and kill bacteria.