NIH team describes protective role of skin microbiota

July 26, 2012, NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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" ...

Double duty: Versatile immune cells play dual roles in human skin

May 3, 2012
A new study helps to resolve an ongoing controversy about whether Langerhans cells (LCs) in human skin function to suppress the immune response and promote tolerance to normal human skin and its "friendly" microbial flora ...

Good bugs gone bad: Gut immune cells keep beneficial microbes in their place

June 6, 2012
The healthy human intestine is colonized with over 100 trillion beneficial, or commensal, bacteria of many different species. In healthy people, these bacteria are limited to the intestinal tissues and have a number of helpful ...

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

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.