Commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier homeostasis by generating protective ceramides

Cell Host Microbe. 2022 Mar 9;30(3):301-313.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2022.01.004. Epub 2022 Feb 4.


Previously either regarded as insignificant or feared as potential sources of infection, the bacteria living on our skin are increasingly recognized for their role in benefitting human health. Skin commensals modulate mucosal immune defenses and directly interfere with pathogens; however, their contribution to the skin's physical integrity is less understood. Here, we show that the abundant skin commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier integrity. S. epidermidis secretes a sphingomyelinase that acquires essential nutrients for the bacteria and assists the host in producing ceramides, the main constituent of the epithelial barrier that averts skin dehydration and aging. In mouse models, S. epidermidis significantly increases skin ceramide levels and prevents water loss of damaged skin in a fashion entirely dependent on its sphingomyelinase. Our findings reveal a symbiotic mechanism that demonstrates an important role of the skin microbiota in the maintenance of the skin's protective barrier.

Keywords: Staphylococcus epidermidis; ceramides; commensal; probiotic; skin; skin barrier; skin microbiota; symbiosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ceramides*
  • Homeostasis
  • Mice
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis*
  • Symbiosis


  • Ceramides