Mice lacking three epidermal barrier proteins-envoplakin, periplakin, and involucrin (EPI-/- mice)-have a defective cornified layer, reduced epidermal γδ T cells, and increased dermal CD4(+) T cells. They are also resistant to developing skin tumors. The tumor-protective mechanism involves signaling between Rae-1 expressing keratinocytes and the natural killer group 2D receptor on immune cells, which also plays a role in host defenses against infection. Given the emerging link between bacteria and cancer, we investigated whether EPI-/- mice have an altered skin microbiota. The bacterial phyla were similar in wild-type and EPI-/- skin. However, bacteria were threefold more abundant in EPI-/- skin and penetrated deeper into the epidermis. The major epithelial defense mechanism against bacteria is production of antimicrobial proteins (AMPs). EPI-/- skin exhibited enhanced expression of antimicrobial peptides. However, reducing the bacterial load by antibiotic treatment or breeding mice under specific pathogen-free conditions did not reduce AMP expression or alleviate the abnormalities in T-cell populations. We conclude that the atopic characteristics of EPI-/- skin are a consequence of the defective barrier rather than a response to the increased bacterial load. It is therefore unlikely that the increase in skin microbiota contributes directly to the observed cancer resistance.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.