Propionibacterium acnes Induces an IL-17 Response in Acne Vulgaris that Is Regulated by Vitamin A and Vitamin D

J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Feb;134(2):366-373. doi: 10.1038/jid.2013.334. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder affecting millions of people worldwide and inflammation resulting from the immune response targeting Propionibacterium acnes has a significant role in its pathogenesis. In this study, we have demonstrated that P. acnes is a potent inducer of T helper 17 (Th17) and Th1, but not Th2 responses in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). P. acnes stimulated expression of key Th17-related genes, including IL-17A, RORα, RORc, IL-17RA, and IL-17RC, and triggered IL-17 secretion from CD4(+), but not from CD8(+) T cells. Supernatants from P. acnes-stimulated PBMCs were sufficient to promote the differentiation of naive CD4(+)CD45RA T cells into Th17 cells. Furthermore, we found that the combination of IL-1β, IL-6, and transforming growth factor-β-neutralizing antibodies completely inhibited P. acnes-induced IL-17 production. Importantly, we showed that IL-17-expressing cells were present in skin biopsies from acne patients but not from normal donors. Finally, vitamin A (all-trans retinoic acid) and vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) inhibited P. acnes-induced Th17 differentiation. Together, our data demonstrate that IL-17 is induced by P. acnes and expressed in acne lesions and that both vitamin A and D could be effective tools to modulate Th17-mediated diseases such as acne.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / immunology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology
  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / microbiology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-22
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Interleukins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1 / immunology
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1 / metabolism
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3 / immunology
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3 / metabolism
  • Propionibacterium acnes / immunology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin / immunology
  • Receptors, Interleukin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-17 / immunology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / cytology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / microbiology
  • Th17 Cells / cytology
  • Th17 Cells / immunology
  • Th17 Cells / microbiology
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D / immunology*


  • IL17A protein, human
  • IL17RA protein, human
  • IL17RC protein, human
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukins
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3
  • RORA protein, human
  • RORC protein, human
  • Receptors, Interleukin
  • Receptors, Interleukin-17
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D