Theta-Defensins Inhibit High-Risk Human Papillomavirus Infection Through Charge-Driven Capsid Clustering

Joseph G. Skeate, Wouter H. Segerink, Mauricio Garcia, Daniel J. Fernandez, Ruben Prins, Kim P. Lühen, F. line O. Voss, Diane M. da Silva, W. Martin Kast*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Persistent infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) genotypes results in a large number of anogenital and head and neck cancers worldwide. Although prophylactic vaccination coverage has improved, there remains a need to develop methods that inhibit viral transmission toward preventing the spread of HPV-driven disease. Defensins are a class of innate immune effector peptides that function to protect hosts from infection by pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Previous work utilizing α and β defensins from humans has demonstrated that the α-defensin HD5 is effective at inhibiting the most common high-risk genotype, HPV16. A third class of defensin that has yet to be explored are θ-defensins: small, 18-amino acid cyclic peptides found in old-world monkeys whose unique structure makes them both highly cationic and resistant to degradation. Here we show that the prototype θ-defensin, rhesus theta defensin 1, inhibits hrHPV infection through a mechanism involving capsid clustering that inhibits virions from binding to cell surface receptor complexes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number561843
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2020

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