The Ubiquitous Human Skin Commensal Staphylococcus hominis Protects against Opportunistic Pathogens

mBio. 2022 Jun 28;13(3):e0093022. doi: 10.1128/mbio.00930-22. Epub 2022 May 24.

Abstract

Staphylococcus hominis is frequently isolated from human skin, and we hypothesize that it may protect the cutaneous barrier from opportunistic pathogens. We determined that S. hominis makes six unique autoinducing peptide (AIP) signals that inhibit the major virulence factor accessory gene regulator (agr) quorum sensing system of Staphylococcus aureus. We solved and confirmed the structures of three novel AIP signals in conditioned medium by mass spectrometry and then validated synthetic AIP activity against all S. aureus agr classes. Synthetic AIPs also inhibited the conserved agr system in a related species, Staphylococcus epidermidis. We determined the distribution of S. hominis agr types on healthy human skin and found S. hominis agr-I and agr-II were highly represented across subjects. Further, synthetic AIP-II was protective in vivo against S. aureus-associated dermonecrotic or epicutaneous injury. Together, these findings demonstrate that a ubiquitous colonizer of human skin has a fundamentally protective role against opportunistic damage. IMPORTANCE Human skin is home to a variety of commensal bacteria, including many species of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS). While it is well established that the microbiota as a whole maintains skin homeostasis and excludes pathogens (i.e., colonization resistance), relatively little is known about the unique contributions of individual CoNS species to these interactions. Staphylococcus hominis is the second most frequently isolated CoNS from healthy skin, and there is emerging evidence to suggest that it may play an important role in excluding pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, from colonizing or infecting the skin. Here, we identified that S. hominis makes 6 unique peptide inhibitors of the S. aureus global virulence factor regulation system (agr). Additionally, we found that one of these peptides can prevent topical or necrotic S. aureus skin injury in a mouse model. Our results demonstrate a specific and broadly protective role for this ubiquitous, yet underappreciated skin commensal.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; coagulase-negative staphylococci; quorum sensing; skin microbiota.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Peptides
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / prevention & control
  • Staphylococcus
  • Staphylococcus aureus* / genetics
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / physiology
  • Staphylococcus hominis
  • Virulence Factors

Substances

  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Virulence Factors