• Despite the assumption that sebum-derived fatty acids are responsible for cutaneous antimicrobial defense, no studies have assessed the contribution of epidermis-derived lipids. Herein, we tested the antistaphylococcal effects of human stratum corneum lipids, enriched in endogenous, keratinocyte-derived species obtained by lipid extraction and thin-layer chromatography, for antimicrobial activity in both in vitro and in vivo systems. Whereas the most potent species in vitro were the free fatty acids, polar lipids and glycosphingolipids also demonstrated antistaphylococcal activity in vitro, while other neutral lipids displayed virtually none, results that were confirmed with authentic standards in vitro. In a pilot study on delipidized forearm test sites in human volunteers, naturally occurring free fatty acids, polar lipids, and glycosphingolipids exhibited significantly more antistaphylococcal activity than other stratum corneum lipids or vehicle controls. Finally, biopsy specimens of incubated skin sites demonstrated penetration of staphylococci through lipid-enriched intercellular domains. These results provide the first evidence that endogenous, epidermis-derived skin lipids may contribute to cutaneous antimicrobial resistance.
(Arch Dermatol 1988;124:209-215)