Molecular cartography of the human skin surface in 3D

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Apr 28;112(17):E2120-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1424409112. Epub 2015 Mar 30.


The human skin is an organ with a surface area of 1.5-2 m(2) that provides our interface with the environment. The molecular composition of this organ is derived from host cells, microbiota, and external molecules. The chemical makeup of the skin surface is largely undefined. Here we advance the technologies needed to explore the topographical distribution of skin molecules, using 3D mapping of mass spectrometry data and microbial 16S rRNA amplicon sequences. Our 3D maps reveal that the molecular composition of skin has diverse distributions and that the composition is defined not only by skin cells and microbes but also by our daily routines, including the application of hygiene products. The technological development of these maps lays a foundation for studying the spatial relationships of human skin with hygiene, the microbiota, and environment, with potential for developing predictive models of skin phenotypes tailored to individual health.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; 3D mapping; human skin; mass spectrometry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • RNA, Bacterial* / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial* / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S* / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S* / metabolism
  • Skin / microbiology*


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S