Author(s): Rieg S, Steffen H, Seeber S, Humeny A, Kalbacher H
Antimicrobial peptides are an integral part of the epithelial innate defense system. Dermcidin (DCD) is a recently discovered antimicrobial peptide with a broad spectrum of activity. It is constitutively expressed in human eccrine sweat glands and secreted into sweat. Patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) have recurrent bacterial or viral skin infections and pronounced colonization with Staphylococcus aureus. We hypothesized that patients with AD have a reduced amount of DCD peptides in sweat contributing to the compromised constitutive innate skin defense. Therefore, we performed semiquantitative and quantitative analyses of DCD peptides in sweat of AD patients and healthy subjects using surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and ELISA. The data indicate that the amount of several DCD-derived peptides in sweat of patients with AD is significantly reduced. Furthermore, compared with atopic patients without previous infectious complications, AD patients with a history of bacterial and viral skin infections were found to have significantly less DCD-1 and DCD-1L in their sweat. To analyze whether the reduced amount of DCD in sweat of AD patients correlates with a decreased innate defense, we determined the antimicrobial activity of sweat in vivo. We showed that in healthy subjects, sweating leads to a reduction of viable bacteria on the skin surface, but this does not occur in patients with AD. These data indicate that reduced expression of DCD in sweat of patients with AD may contribute to the high susceptibility of these patients to skin infections and altered skin colonization.