FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Staphylococcus aureus keratinocyte invasion is mediated by integrin-linked kinase and Rac1.

PMID 25416549


Staphylococcus aureus is a major component of the skin microbiota and causes a large number of serious infections. S. aureus first interacts with epidermal keratinocytes to breach the epidermal barrier through mechanisms not fully understood. By use of primary keratinocytes from mice with epidermis-restricted Ilk gene inactivation and control integrin-linked kinase (ILK)-expressing littermates, we investigated the role of ILK in epidermal S. aureus invasion. Heat-killed, but not live, bacteria were internalized to Rab5- and Rab7-positive phagosomes, and incubation with keratinocyte growth factor increased their uptake 2.5-fold. ILK-deficient mouse keratinocytes internalized bacteria 2- to 4-fold less efficiently than normal cells. The reduced invasion by live S. aureus of ILK-deficient cells was restored in the presence of exogenous, constitutively active Rac1. Thus, Rac1 functions downstream from ILK during invasion. Further, invasion by S. aureus of Rac1-deficient cells was 2.5-fold lower than in normal cells. Paradoxically, staphylococcal cutaneous penetration of mouse skin explants with ILK-deficient epidermis was 35-fold higher than that of normal skin, indicating defects in epidermal barrier function in the absence of ILK. Thus, we identified an ILK-Rac1 pathway essential for bacterial invasion of keratinocytes, and established ILK as a key contributor to prevent invasive staphylococcal cutaneous infection.