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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Sep 10;110(37):15061-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1307855110. Epub 2013 Aug 26.

Complement modulates the cutaneous microbiome and inflammatory milieu.

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Departments of Dermatology and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


The skin is colonized by a plethora of microbes that include commensals and potential pathogens, but it is currently unknown how cutaneous host immune mechanisms influence the composition, diversity, and quantity of the skin microbiota. Here we reveal an interactive role for complement in cutaneous host-microbiome interactions. Inhibiting signaling of the complement component C5a receptor (C5aR) altered the composition and diversity of the skin microbiota as revealed by deep sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. In parallel, we demonstrate that C5aR inhibition results in down-regulation of genes encoding cutaneous antimicrobial peptides, pattern recognition receptors, and proinflammatory mediators. Immunohistochemistry of inflammatory cell infiltrates in the skin showed reduced numbers of macrophages and lymphocytes with C5aR inhibition. Further, comparing cutaneous gene expression in germ-free mice vs. conventionally raised mice suggests that the commensal microbiota regulates expression of complement genes in the skin. These findings demonstrate a component of host immunity that impacts colonization of the skin by the commensal microbiota and vice versa, a critical step toward understanding host-microbe immune mutualism of the skin and its implications for health and disease. Additionally, we reveal a role for complement in homeostatic host-microbiome interactions of the skin.

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