The ectoparasitic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei that burrows in the epidermis of mammalian skin has a long co-evolution with its hosts. Phenotypic studies show that the mites have the ability to modulate cytokine secretion and expression of cell adhesion molecules in cells of the skin and other cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems that may assist the mites to survive in the skin. The purpose of this study was to identify genes in keratinocytes and fibroblasts in human skin equivalents (HSEs) that changed expression in response to the burrowing of live scabies mites. Overall, of the more than 25,800 genes measured, 189 genes were up-regulated >2-fold in response to scabies mite burrowing while 152 genes were down-regulated to the same degree. HSEs differentially expressed large numbers of genes that were related to host protective responses including those involved in immune response, defense response, cytokine activity, taxis, response to other organisms, and cell adhesion. Genes for the expression of interleukin-1α (IL-1α) precursor, IL-1β, granulocyte/macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) precursor, and G-CSF precursor were up-regulated 2.8- to 7.4-fold, paralleling cytokine secretion profiles. A large number of genes involved in epithelium development and keratinization were also differentially expressed in response to live scabies mites. Thus, these skin cells are directly responding as expected in an inflammatory response to products of the mites and the disruption of the skin’s protective barrier caused by burrowing. This suggests that in vivo the interplay among these skin cells and other cell types, including Langerhans cells, dendritic cells, lymphocytes and endothelial cells, is responsible for depressing the host’s protective response allowing these mites to survive in the skin.
Morgan, M. S.,
Arlian, L. G.,
& Markey, M. P.
(2013). Sarcoptes scabiei Mites Modulate Gene Expression in Human Skin Equivalents. PLOS ONE, 8 (8).