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Killer Skin

 
  December, 7 2004 9:00
your information resource in human molecular genetics
 
     
The common gut bacterium Escherichia coli thrives in the environment of the intestines, but skin seems to be too much for the bugs to handle. In the January 2005 issue of Nature Immunology, researchers report the identification of an antimicrobial protein secreted by the skin, called psoriasin, that preferentially kills E. coli - making this molecule important in protecting healthy skin and possibly other body surfaces from E. coli infection. Certain microbes can colonize the skin, whereas others are rapidly killed. Jens-Michael Schröder and colleagues observed that E. coli cannot grow on fingertips. They collected the wastewater from skin washings and identified the killer of E. coli as a protein already called psoriasin, which was previously associated with breast and other cancers. They show that psoriasin kills several strains of E. coli by mopping up zinc, which is required for bacterial survival. By analyzing several locations of the body, the authors conclude that psoriasin is particularly abundant in areas exposed to high densities of E. coli. Hence, psoriasin is cleverly ready and waiting, like a set trap, to selectively target a potentially pathogenic bacterium.

Author contact:

Jens-Michael Schröeder (University-Hospital Schleswig Holstein, Kiel, Germany)
Tel: +49 431 597 1536, E-mail: jschroeder@dermatology.uni-kiel.de

Additional contact for comment on paper:

Charles L. Bevins (University of California at Davis, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 530 754 6889, E-mail: clbevins@ucdavis.edu

Also published online.

(C) Nature Immunology press release.


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