Marine Biology

, Volume 144, Issue 5, pp 841–844 | Cite as

A preliminary approach to epidermal antimicrobial defense in the Delphinidae

Research Article


In three delphinid species (Pacific spotted dolphin, Stenella attenuata; common dolphin, Delphinus delphis; harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena) the enzyme lysozyme and the peptide group β-defensins are demonstrated for the first time in cetaceans as products of the thick integument. Lysozyme was found between the lamellae of the stratum corneum, in the cells of the stratum spinosum, free cells of the dermis, and in endothelial cells of dermal blood vessels. β-defensins (especially type 3) were clearly located in cells of the upper stratum spinosum, and concentrated between the upper five or six layers of the stratum corneum. The occurrence and localization of such substances that may serve as a non-specific defense against bacteria, fungi, algae, and ectoparasites, was known until now only for haired marine mammals with typical skin glands, like in pinnipeds.


  1. Ali RS, Falconer A, Ikram M, Bissett CE, Cerio R, Quinn AG (2001) Expression of the peptide antibiotics human β defensin-1 and human β defensin-2 in normal human skin. J Investig Dermatol 117:106–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baum C, Meyer W, Roessner D, Siebers D, Fleischer LG (2001) A zymogel enhances the self-cleaning abilities of the skin of the pilot whale (Globicephala melas). Comp Biochem Physiol A 130:835–847Google Scholar
  3. Baum C, Meyer W, Stelzer R, Fleischer LG, Siebers D (2002) Average nanorough skin surface of the pilot whale (Globicephala melas, Delphinidae): considerations on the self-cleaning abilities based on nanoroughness. Mar Biol 140:653–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baum C, Simon F, Meyer W, Fleischer LG, Siebers D, Kacza J, Seeger J (2003) Surface properties of the skin of the pilot whale Globicephala melas. Biofouling 19[Suppl]:181–186Google Scholar
  5. Bos JD, Pasch MC, Asghar SS (2001) Defensins and complement systems from the perspective of skin immunity and autoimmunity. Clin Dermatol 19:563–572CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cooksey KE, Wigglesworth-Cooksey B (1995) Adhesion of bacteria and diatoms to surfaces in the sea: a review. Aquat Microb Ecol 9:87–96Google Scholar
  7. Ebran N, Julien S, Orange N, Auperin B, Molle G (2001) Isolation and characterization of novel glycoproteins from fish epidermal mucus: correlation between their pore-forming properties and their antibacterial activities. Biochim Biophys Acta 25:271–280Google Scholar
  8. Ellis AE (2001) Innate host defense mechanisms of fish against viruses and bacteria. Dev Comp Immunol 25:827–839CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Frasca S Jr, Dunn JL, Cooke JC, Buck JD (1996) Mycotic dermatitis in an Atlantic white-sided dolphin, a pygmy sperm whale, and two harbor seals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 208:727–729PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Hao HN, Zhao J, Lotoczky G, Grever WE, Lyman WD (2001) Induction of human β-defensin-2 expression in human astrocytes by lipopolysaccharides and cytokines. J Neurochem 77:1027–1035CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Harder J, Bartels J, Christophers E, Schroeder JM (1997) A peptide antibiotic from human skin. Nature 387:861PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Harder J, Bartels J, Christophers E, Schroeder JM (2001) Isolation and characterization of human β-defensin-3, a novel human inducible peptide antibiotic. J Biol Chem 276:5707–5713PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Haubold EM, Cooper CR Jr, Wen JW, McGinnis MR, Cowan DF (2000) Comparative morphology of Lacazia loboi (syn. Loboa loboi) in dolphins and humans. Med Mycol 38:9–14Google Scholar
  14. Hautzer NW, Wittkuhn JF, McCaughey WTE (1980) Trypsin digestion in immunoperoxidase staining. J Histochem Cytochem 28:52–53PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Liu AY, Destoumieux D, Wong AV, Park CH, Valore EV, Liu L, Ganz T (2002) Human β-defensin-2 production in keratinocytes is regulated by interleukin-1, bacteria, and the state of differentiation. J Investig Dermatol 118:275–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Meyer W, Bollhorn M, Stede M (2000) Aspects of general antimicrobial properties of skin secretions in the common seal Phoca vitulina. Dis Aquat Org 41:77–79PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Meyer W, Neurand K, Tanyolac A (2001) General anti-microbial properties of the integument in fleece producing sheep and goats. Small Ruminant Res 41:181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Meyer W, Seegers U, Herrmann J, Schnapper A (2003) Further aspects of the general antimicrobial properties of pinniped skin secretions. Dis Aquat Org 53:177–179PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Schroeder JM (1999) Epithelial peptide antibiotics. Biochem Pharmacol 57:121–134CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Schulman FY, Lipscomb TP, Moffett D, Krafft AE, Lichy JH, Tsai MM, Taubenberger JK, Kennedy S (1997) Histologic, immunohistochemical, and polymerase chain reaction studies of bottlenose dolphins from the 1987–1988 United States Atlantic coast epizootic. Vet Pathol 34:289–295Google Scholar
  21. Seo SJ, Ahn SW, Hong CK, Ro BL (2001) Expressions of β-defensins in human keratinocyte cell lines. J Dermatol Sci 27:183–291CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith VJ, Fernandes JM, Jones SJ, Kemp GD, Tatner MF (2000) Antibacterial proteins in the rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Fish Shellfish Immunol 10:243–260CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Stoodley P, Lewandowski Z, Boyle JD, Lappin-Scott HM (1999) Structural deformation of bacterial biofilms caused by shortterm fluctuations in fluid shear: an in situ investigation of biofilm rheology. Biotechnol Bioeng 65:83–92PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Wilson B, Arnold H, Bearzi G, Fortuna CM, Gaspar R, Ingram S, Liret C, Probanic S, Read AJ, Ridoux V, Schneider K, Urian KW, Wells RS, Wood C, Thompson PM, Hammond PS (1999) Epidermal diseases in bottlenose dolphins: impacts of natural and anthropogenic factors. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 266:1077–1083CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Wirth U (1999) Vergleichende Untersuchungen zur Struktur und Funktion der Hautschichten bei Fischen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Hautsekreten. Dissertation, Universität Hannover, Hanover, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  26. Yang D, Chertov O, Oppenheim JJ (2001) The role of mammalian antimicrobial peptides and proteins in awakening of innate host defenses and adaptive immunity. Cell Mol Life Sci 58:978–989PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anatomisches InstitutTierärztliche Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Pharmakologie, Toxikologie und PharmazieTierärztliche Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany

Personalised recommendations