The dietary ingredient, genistein, stimulates cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide expression through a novel S1P-dependent mechanism

J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jul;25(7):734-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.03.005. Epub 2014 Mar 27.


We recently discovered that a signaling lipid, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), generated by sphingosine kinase 1, regulates a major epidermal antimicrobial peptide's [cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP)] expression via an NF-κB→C/EBPα-dependent pathway, independent of vitamin D receptor (VDR) in epithelial cells. Activation of estrogen receptors (ERs) by either estrogens or phytoestrogens also is known to stimulate S1P production, but it is unknown whether ER activation increases CAMP production. We investigated whether a phytoestrogen, genistein, simulates CAMP expression in keratinocytes, a model of epithelial cells, by either a S1P-dependent mechanism(s) or the alternate VDR-regulated pathway. Exogenous genistein, as well as an ER-β ligand, WAY-200070, increased CAMP mRNA and protein expression in cultured human keratinocytes, while ER-β antagonist, ICI182780, attenuated the expected genistein- and WAY-200070-induced increase in CAMP mRNA/protein expression. Genistein treatment increased acidic and alkaline ceramidase expression and cellular S1P levels in parallel with increased S1P lyase inhibition, accounting for increased CAMP production. In contrast, siRNA against VDR did not alter genistein-mediated up-regulation of CAMP. Taken together, genistein induces CAMP production via an ER-β→S1P→NF-κB→C/EBPα- rather than a VDR-dependent mechanism, illuminating a new role for estrogens in the regulation of epithelial innate immunity and pointing to potential additional benefits of dietary genistein in enhancing cutaneous antimicrobial defense.

Keywords: Cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide; Estrogen receptor β; Genistein; Innate immunity; Keratinocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-alpha / metabolism
  • Cathelicidins / biosynthesis*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ceramidases / biosynthesis
  • Estradiol / analogs & derivatives
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / physiology
  • Fulvestrant
  • Genistein / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Lysophospholipids / physiology*
  • Oxazoles / pharmacology
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / physiology
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sphingosine / physiology


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-alpha
  • Cathelicidins
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Lysophospholipids
  • Oxazoles
  • Phenols
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • WAY 200070
  • Fulvestrant
  • sphingosine 1-phosphate
  • Estradiol
  • Genistein
  • Ceramidases
  • Sphingosine