NIH team describes protective role of skin microbiota

July 26, 2012

A research team at the National Institutes of Health has found that bacteria that normally live in the skin may help protect the body from infection. As the largest organ of the body, the skin represents a major site of interaction with microbes in the environment.

Although immune cells in the protect against harmful organisms, until now, it has not been known if the millions of naturally occurring in the skin—collectively known as the skin —also have a beneficial role. Using mouse models, the NIH team observed that commensals contribute to protective immunity by interacting with the immune cells in the skin. Their findings appear online on July 26th in Science.

The investigators colonized germ-free mice (mice bred with no naturally occurring microbes in the gut or skin) with the human skin commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis. The team observed that colonizing the mice with this one species of good enabled an immune cell in the mouse skin to produce a cell-signaling molecule needed to protect against harmful microbes. The researchers subsequently infected both colonized and non-colonized germ-free mice with a parasite. Mice that were not colonized with the bacteria did not mount an effective immune response to the parasite; mice that were colonized did.

In separate experiments, the team sought to determine if the presence or absence of commensals in the gut played a role in skin immunity. They observed that adding or eliminating beneficial bacteria in the gut did not affect the immune response at the skin. These findings indicate that microbiota found in different tissues—skin, gut, lung—have unique roles at each site and that maintaining good health requires the presence of several different sets of commensal communities.

This study provides new insights into the protective role of skin commensals, and demonstrates that skin health relies on the interaction of commensals and immune cells. Further research is needed, say the authors, to determine whether skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis may be caused or exacerbated by an imbalance of skin commensals and potentially harmful microbes that influence the skin and its .

Explore further: Biodiversity loss may cause increase in allergies and asthma

More information: S Naik et al. Compartmentalized control of skin immunity by resident commensals. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1225152 (2012).

Related Stories

Biodiversity loss may cause increase in allergies and asthma

May 7, 2012

Declining biodiversity may be contributing to the rise of asthma, allergies, and other chronic inflammatory diseases among people living in cities worldwide, a Finnish study suggests. Emerging evidence indicates that commensal ...

Gatekeeper signal controls skin inflammation

January 26, 2012

A new study unravels key signals that regulate protective and sometimes pathological inflammation of the skin. The research, published online on January 26th in the journal Immunity by Cell Press, identifies a "gatekeeper" ...

Recommended for you

Artificial beta cells

December 8, 2016

Researchers led by ETH Professor Martin Fussenegger at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel have produced artificial beta cells using a straightforward engineering approach.

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.