Vernix Caseosa as a Multi-Component Defence System Based on Polypeptides, Lipids and Their Interactions

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005 Oct;62(19-20):2390-9. doi: 10.1007/s00018-005-5260-7.

Abstract

Vernix caseosa is a white cream-like substance that covers the skin of the foetus and the newborn baby. Recently, we discovered antimicrobial peptides/proteins such as LL-37 in vernix, suggesting host defence functions of vernix. In a proteomic approach, we have continued to characterize proteins in vernix and have identified 20 proteins, plus additional variant forms. The novel proteins identified, considered to be involved in host defence, are cystatin A, UGRP-1, and calgranulin A, B and C. These proteins add protective functions to vernix such as antifungal activity, opsonizing capacity, protease inhibition and parasite inactivation. The composition of the lipids in vernix has also been characterized and among these compounds the free fatty acids were found to exhibit antimicrobial activity. Interestingly, the vernix lipids enhance the antimicrobial activity of LL-37 in vitro, indicating interactions between lipids and antimicrobial peptides in vernix. In conclusion, vernix is a balanced cream of compounds involved in host defence, protecting the foetus and newborn against infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / isolation & purification
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Chlorhexidine / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Lipids / isolation & purification
  • Lipids / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proteomics
  • Vernix Caseosa / chemistry*
  • Vernix Caseosa / metabolism

Substances

  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Lipids
  • CAP18 lipopolysaccharide-binding protein
  • Chlorhexidine