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A novel subclass of bovine β-defensins links reproduction and immunology

Narciandi, F., Lloyd, A., Meade, K. G., O’Farrelly, C.
Reproduction, fertility, and development 2014 v.26 no.6 pp. 769-777
testes, invertebrates, men, humans, innate immunity, mutation, sperm motility, mice, genes, cows, genetic variation, anti-infective agents, epithelium, rats
β-defensins are effector molecules of the innate immune system, found in many diverse species. Their presence in invertebrates as well as vertebrates suggests highly conserved functional roles. Most β-defensins are believed to act as antimicrobial agents at epithelial surfaces, although additional functions have also been described, including immune regulatory activity, wound repair and a role in coat-colour determination. High expression of β-defensins have been found in testis and epididymidal epithelium as well as in the seminal fluid of humans, macaque, rat, mouse and cow. Human and macaque β-defensins have recently been shown to affect sperm motility while a mutation in β-defensin 126 is associated with reduced fertility in men. Genetic variation in bovine defensin genes may explain the increased incidence of low fertility in cattle. Here, we present a summary of the known functions of β-defensins as well as their emerging role in reproduction and their potential to improve fertility in cattle.