Histone H4 is a major component of the antimicrobial action of human sebocytes

Dong Youn Lee, Chun Ming Huang, Teruaki Nakatsuji, Diane Thiboutot, Sun Ah Kang, Marc Monestier, Richard L. Gallo

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109 Scopus citations


Antimicrobial peptides, such as cathelicidin and Β defensins, directly kill microbes and have been detected in human sebaceous glands and cell lines. Despite the presence of several such peptides, the apparent abundance of these is insufficient for direct killing of most skin pathogens. In this study, we sought to determine which molecules provide the majority of antimicrobial peptide activity in human sebocytes. Acid-soluble protein extracts of SEB-1 sebocytes were separated by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography and were assayed for their capacity to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. Antimicrobial activity was isolated in a single major fraction and identified to be histone H4 by mass spectrometry and western blot analysis. The importance of histone H4 in the antimicrobial activity of sebocytes was confirmed by a specific neutralizing antibody and by direct demonstration that recombinant histone H4 had antimicrobial activity against S. aureus and Propionibacterium acnes. In addition, histone H4 enhanced the antimicrobial action of free fatty acids in human sebum. Taken together, these results indicate that the release of histone H4 by holocrine secretion from the sebaceous gland may play an important role in innate immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2489-2496
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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