Epidermal lipid composition, barrier integrity, and eczematous inflammation are associated with skin microbiome configuration

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Abstract

Background

Genomic approaches have revealed characteristic site specificities of skin bacterial community structures. In addition, in children with atopic dermatitis (AD), characteristic shifts were described at creases and, in particular, during flares, which have been postulated to mirror disturbed skin barrier function, cutaneous inflammation, or both.

Objective

We sought to comprehensively analyze microbial configurations in patients with AD across body sites and to explore the effect of distinct abnormalities of epidermal barrier function.

Methods

The skin microbiome was determined by using bacterial 16S rRNA sequencing at 4 nonlesional body sites, as well as acute and chronic lesions of 10 patients with AD and 10 healthy control subjects matched for age, sex, and filaggrin (FLG) mutation status. Nonlesional sampling sites were characterized for skin physiology parameters, including chromatography-based lipid profiling.

Results

Epidermal lipid composition, in particular levels of long-chain unsaturated free fatty acids, strongly correlated with bacterial composition, in particular Propionibacteria and Corynebacteria abundance. AD displayed a distinct community structure, with increased abundance and altered composition of staphylococcal species across body sites, the strongest loss of diversity and increase in Staphylococcus aureus seen on chronic lesions, and a progressive shift from nonlesional skin to acute and chronic lesions. FLG-deficient skin showed a distinct microbiome composition resembling in part the AD-related pattern.

Conclusion

Epidermal barrier integrity and function affect the skin microbiome composition. AD shows an altered microbial configuration across diverse body sites, which is most pronounced at sites of predilection and AD. Eczematous affection appears to be a more important determinant than body site.

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