Experimental metagenomics and ribosomal profiling of the human skin microbiome

Exp Dermatol. 2017 Mar;26(3):211-219. doi: 10.1111/exd.13210. Epub 2017 Jan 20.


The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it is populated by a large diversity of microbes, most of which are co-evolved with the host and live in symbiotic harmony. There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome plays a crucial role in the defense against pathogens, immune system training and homoeostasis, and microbiome perturbations have been associated with pathological skin conditions. Studying the skin resident microbial community is thus essential to better understand the microbiome-host crosstalk and to associate its specific configurations with cutaneous diseases. Several community profiling approaches have proved successful in unravelling the composition of the skin microbiome and overcome the limitations of cultivation-based assays, but these tools remain largely inaccessible to the clinical and medical dermatology communities. The study of the skin microbiome is also characterized by specific technical challenges, such as the low amount of microbial biomass and the extensive human DNA contamination. Here, we review the available community profiling approaches to study the skin microbiome, specifically focusing on the practical experimental and analytical tools necessary to generate and analyse skin microbiome data. We describe all the steps from the initial samples collection to the final data interpretation, with the goal of enabling clinicians and researchers who are not familiar with the microbiome field to perform skin profiling experiments.

Keywords: metagenomics; next generation sequencing; profiling; ribosomal; ribosomal profiling; skin microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Metagenomics / methods*
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / analysis*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Skin / microbiology*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S