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Stressed-out Skin Loses Its Antimicrobial Defense Mechanism

Date:
November 19, 2007
Source:
Journal of Clinical Investigation
Summary:
It is well known that being stressed increases our susceptibility to infections by impairing the function of our immune system, but the molecular links between stress and diminished immune function have not been determined. A new study in mice has provided insight into this issue by showing that psychological stress increased production of glucocorticoids and that this decreased the expression of antimicrobial peptides in the skin, making the mice more susceptible to skin infections.

It is well known that being stressed increases our susceptibility to infections by impairing the function of our immune system, but the molecular links between stress and diminished immune function have not been determined.

However, Peter Elias and colleagues at UCSF, have now characterized a mechanistic link in mice between psychological stress and increased susceptibility to skin infections.

Mice subjected to conditions of psychological stress were found to be more susceptible to group A Streptococcus pyogenes skin infections than mice housed under normal conditions.

This was associated with decreased expression of antimicrobial peptides by the epidermis of the skin. Further analysis revealed that psychological stress induced the increased production of glucocorticoids and that this inhibited the synthesis of fats in the epidermis of the skin and decreased the secretion of vesicles that contain antimicrobial peptides.

As indicated by the authors and Andrzej Slominski from the University of Tennessee, Memphis, in an accompanying commentary, these data lead to the suggestion that the immune function of the skin might be improved in individuals who are stressed by inhibiting the action of glucocorticoids.

Psychological stress downregulates epidermal antimicrobial peptide expression and increases severity of cutaneous infections in mice, Journal of Clinical Investigation, November 1, 2007


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Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Stressed-out Skin Loses Its Antimicrobial Defense Mechanism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071101193415.htm>.
Journal of Clinical Investigation. (2007, November 19). Stressed-out Skin Loses Its Antimicrobial Defense Mechanism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071101193415.htm
Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Stressed-out Skin Loses Its Antimicrobial Defense Mechanism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071101193415.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

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