The Skin Commensal Yeast Malassezia Triggers a Type 17 Response that Coordinates Anti-fungal Immunity and Exacerbates Skin Inflammation

Cell Host Microbe. 2019 Mar 13;25(3):389-403.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2019.02.002.


Commensal fungi of the mammalian skin, such as those of the genus Malassezia, are associated with atopic dermatitis and other common inflammatory skin disorders. Understanding of the causative relationship between fungal commensalism and disease manifestation remains incomplete. By developing a murine epicutaneous infection model, we found Malassezia spp. selectively induce IL-17 and related cytokines. This response is key in preventing fungal overgrowth on the skin, as disruption of the IL-23-IL-17 axis compromises Malassezia-specific cutaneous immunity. Under conditions of impaired skin integrity, mimicking a hallmark of atopic dermatitis, the presence of Malassezia dramatically aggravates cutaneous inflammation, which again was IL-23 and IL-17 dependent. Consistently, we found a CCR6+ Th17 subset of memory T cells to be Malassezia specific in both healthy individuals and atopic dermatitis patients, whereby the latter showed enhanced frequency of these cells. Thus, the Malassezia-induced type 17 response is pivotal in orchestrating antifungal immunity and in actively promoting skin inflammation.

Keywords: Malassezia; Th17; atopic dermatitis; fungal commensalism; inflammation; interleukin-17; interleukin-23; skin immunity; skin microbiota; γδ T cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology*
  • Dermatomycoses / microbiology*
  • Dermatomycoses / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malassezia / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Cytokines