Previously either regarded as insignificant or feared as potential sources of infection, the bacteria living on our skin are increasingly recognized for their role in benefitting human health. Skin commensals modulate mucosal immune defenses and directly interfere with pathogens; however, their contribution to the skin’s physical integrity is less understood.
In their study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, Dr. Michael Otto from NIH and his colleagues, showed that the abundant skin commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier integrity. S. epidermidis secretes a sphingomyelinase that acquires essential nutrients for the bacteria and assists the host in producing ceramides, the main constituent of the epithelial barrier that averts skin dehydration and aging. In mouse models, S. epidermidis significantly increased skin ceramide levels and prevented water loss of damaged skin in a fashion entirely dependent on its sphingomyelinase.
These findings reveal a symbiotic mechanism that demonstrates an important role of the skin microbiota in the maintenance of the skin’s protective barrier.
- Commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier homeostasis
- S. epidermidis produces a sphingomyelinase that helps generate protective ceramides
- Sphingomyelinase contributes to S. epidermidis skin colonization
- S. epidermidis prevents skin dehydration via its sphingomyelinase activity
Image Credits: Zheng, Yue et al., Cell Host & Microbe (2022)
Dr. Micahel Otto will be joining Skin Ageing & Challenges 2023 to give a talk about his latest findings. Learn more about Dr. Otto’s talk.
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