A unifying theme common to the action of many cationic peptides that display lethal activities against microbial pathogens is their specific action at microbial membranes that results in selective loss of ions and small nucleotides-chiefly ATP. One model cationic peptide that induces non-lytic release of ATP from the fungal pathogen Candida albicans is salivary histatin 5 (Hst 5). The major characteristic of Hst 5-induced ATP release is that it occurs rapidly while cells are still metabolically active and have polarized membranes, thus precluding cell lysis as the means of release of ATP. Other cationic peptides that induce selective release of ATP from target microbes are lactoferricin, human neutrophil defensins, bactenecin, and cathelicidin peptides. The role of released extracellular ATP induced by cationic peptides is not known, but localized increases in extracellular ATP concentration may serve to potentiate cell killing, facilitate further peptide uptake, or function as an additional signal to activate the host innate immune system at the site of infection.