Metabolism of azo dyes by human skin microbiota

J Med Microbiol. 2010 Jan;59(Pt 1):108-114. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.012617-0.


Reduction of Methyl Red (MR) and Orange II (Or II) by 26 human skin bacterial species was monitored by a rapid spectrophotometric assay. The analysis indicated that skin bacteria, representing the genera Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, Micrococcus, Dermacoccus and Kocuria, were able to reduce MR by 74-100 % in 24 h, with only three species unable to reduce completely the dye in that time. Among the species tested, only Corynebacterium xerosis was unable to reduce Or II to any degree by 24 h, and only Staphylococcus delphini, Staphylococcus sciuri subsp. sciuri and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were able to reduce completely this dye within 24 h. MR reduction started with early-exponential growth in Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, and around late-exponential/early-stationary growth in P. aeruginosa. Reduction of Or II, Ponceau S and Ponceau BS started during late-exponential/early-stationary growth for all three species. Using liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry analyses, MR metabolites produced by Staph. aureus, Staph. epidermidis and P. aeruginosa were identified as N,N-dimethyl-p-phenylenediamine and 2-aminobenzoic acid. Searches of available genomic and proteomic data revealed that at least four of the staphylococci in this study, Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Staph. epidermidis, Staphylococcus cohnii and Staphylococcus saprophyticus, have hypothetical genes with 77, 76, 75 and 74 % sequence identity to azo1 encoding an azoreductase from Staph. aureus and hypothetical proteins with 82, 80, 72 and 74 % identity to Azo1, respectively. In addition, Staphylococcus capitis has a protein with 79 % identity to Azo1. Western analysis detected proteins similar to Azo1 in all the staphylococci tested, except Staph. delphini, Staph. sciuri subsp. sciuri and Staphylococcus auricularis. The data presented in this report will be useful in the risk assessment process for evaluation of public exposure to products containing these dyes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Azo Compounds / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Benzenesulfonates / metabolism*
  • Coloring Agents / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Humans
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Azo Compounds
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Benzenesulfonates
  • Coloring Agents
  • methyl red
  • 2-naphthol orange