Decrease in glutathione may be involved in pathogenesis of acne vulgaris

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(3):240-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2011.00570.x.


Background: Some past studies reported that oxidative stress components such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) or lipid peroxide (LPO) are involved in the pathogenesis and progression of acne vulgaris. In this study, we hypothesized that the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris may depend on the differences in antioxidative activity among antioxidants in our body. We collected samples of stratum corneum from acne patients and healthy subjects and compared the quantity of gluthathione (GSH), one of many antioxidative components in our body, for comparison.

Methods: Samples of stratum corneum were collected from facial acne-involved lesion, facial uninvolved area, and the medial side of the upper arm in acne vulgaris patients. Similarly, samples were collected from a facial uninvolved area and the medial side of the upper arm in healthy subjects. The quantity of GSH was measured in each area. In vitro effects of alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) on GSH synthesis-related gene were also examined.

Results: The quantity of GSH in stratum corneum from each area was significantly lower in acne vulgaris patients than that of healthy subjects. There was no significant difference in quantity of GSH between the acne-involved lesion and uninvolved area in acne patients. In vitro studies showed that the expression level of Glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC), one of the GSH synthesis-related genes, was significantly decreased by the additional use of α-MSH.

Conclusions: We conclude that a decline in antioxidative activity led by a decrease in GSH quantity may play an important role in pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. The use of α-MSH may further decrease the GSH level.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / etiology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / genetics
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutathione / genetics
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Young Adult
  • alpha-MSH / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • alpha-MSH
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione