Keratinocytes constitute the majority of cells in the skin's epidermis, the first line of defence against percutaneous pathogens. Schistosome larvae (cercariae) actively penetrate the epidermis to establish infection, however the response of keratinocytes to invading cercariae has not been investigated. Here we address the hypothesis that cercariae activate epidermal keratinocytes to promote the development of a pro-inflammatory immune response in the skin. C57BL/6 mice were exposed to Schistosoma mansoni cercariae via each pinna and non-haematopoietic cells isolated from epidermal tissue were characterised for the presence of different keratinocyte sub-sets at 6, 24 and 96h p.i. We identified an expansion of epidermal keratinocyte precursors (CD45-, CD326-, CD34+) within 24h of infection relative to naïve animals. Following infection, cells within the precursor population displayed a more differentiated phenotype (α6integrin-) than in uninfected skin. Parallel immunohistochemical analysis of pinnae cryosections showed that this expansion corresponded to an increase in the intensity of CD34 staining, specifically in the basal bulge region of hair follicles of infected mice, and a higher frequency of keratinocyte Ki67+ nuclei in both the hair follicle and interfollicular epidermis. Expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine and stress-associated keratin 6b genes was also transiently upregulated in the epidermal tissue of infected mice. In vitro exposure of keratinocyte precursors isolated from neonatal mouse skin to excretory/secretory antigens released by penetrating cercariae elicited IL-1α and IL-1β production, supporting a role for keratinocyte precursors in initiating cutaneous inflammatory immune responses. Together, these observations indicate that S. mansoni cercariae and their excretory/secretory products act directly upon epidermal keratinocytes, which respond by initiating barrier repair and pro-inflammatory mechanisms similar to those observed in epidermal wound healing.
Bourke, C. D., Prendergast, C. T., Sanin, D. E., Oulton, T. E., Hall, R. J., & Mountford, A. P. (2015). Epidermal keratinocytes initiate wound healing and pro-inflammatory immune responses following percutaneous schistosome infection. International Journal for Parasitology, 45(4), 215–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2014.11.002