Expression of human β defensin 2 in thermal injury

Stephen M. Milner, Satyanarayan Bhat, Maximilian Buja, Salil Gulati, Brian J. Poindexter, Roger J. Bick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Sepsis is a common and serious complication of major burn injury and accounts for over 54% of deaths in burn patients. Burns are associated with high levels of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines and immunosuppression, promoting systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and sepsis, for which no effective treatment is currently available. Defensins, a family of cationic, naturally occurring, antimicrobial peptides are important components of the innate immune system, playing a major role in the body's defence by inhibiting activities of bacteria, fungi and enveloped viruses. These natural antimicrobials also chemoattract immature dendritic cells, some types of T and B-lymphocytes, neutrophils and macrophages, and act as an adjuvant, enhancing adaptive immunity. Our prior studies suggested a decreased expression of human β defensin 2 (HBD2) in burn wounds. Here we have identified HBD2 protein in skin samples of partial and full thickness burns and in normal skin using fluorescence deconvolution microscopy. Images showed that in normal skin the majority of HBD2 is located in the Malpighian layer and, in smaller amounts, in the more superficial layers, a pattern that is absent in burned skin in which the epidermis is destroyed or damaged. However, surviving dermal and subcutaneous layers revealed the presence of HBD2 in a number of other cell types and structures, such as hair follicles and sweat gland acini, but not in vascular endothelium and fat cells. The results of these studies further contribute to an understanding of the role of antimicrobial peptides in the pathophysiology of burn injury, associated immunosuppression and sepsis and the possibility of using these other sites of HBD2 deposition for upregulation of antimicrobial synthesis in the treatment of burns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-654
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Burns
  • Deconvolution microscopy
  • Defensins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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