Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of capric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: a comparative study with lauric acid

J Dermatol Sci. 2014 Mar;73(3):232-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.10.010. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


Background: Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is a commensal bacterium which is possibly involved in acne inflammation. The saturated fatty acid, lauric acid (C12:0) has been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties against P. acnes. Little is known concerning the potential effects of its decanoic counterpart, capric acid (C10:0).

Objective: To examine the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of capric acid against P. acnes and to investigate the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory action.

Methods: The antimicrobial activity of fatty acids was detected using the broth dilution method. An evaluation of P. acnes-induced ear edema in mice was conducted to evaluate the in vivo anti-inflammatory effect. To elucidate the in vitro anti-inflammatory effect, human SZ95 sebocytes and monocytic THP-1 cells were treated with P. acnes alone or in the presence of a fatty acid. The mRNA levels and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines were measured by qRT-PCR and enzyme immunoassay, respectively. NF-κB activation and MAPK expression were analyzed by ELISA and Western blot, respectively.

Results: Lauric acid had stronger antimicrobial activity against P. acnes than capric acid in vitro and in vivo. However, both fatty acids attenuated P. acnes-induced ear swelling in mice along with microabscess and significantly reduced interleukin (IL)-6 and CXCL8 (also known as IL-8) production in P. acnes-stimulated SZ95 sebocytes. P. acnes-induced mRNA levels and secretion of IL-8 and TNF-α in THP-1 cells were suppressed by both fatty acids, which inhibited NF-κB activation and the phosphorylation of MAP kinases.

Conclusion: Our data demonstrate that both capric acid and lauric acid exert bactericidal and anti-inflammatory activities against P. acnes. The anti-inflammatory effect may partially occur through the inhibition of NF-κB activation and the phosphorylation of MAP kinases.

Keywords: Anti-inflammation; Antibacterial; Capric acid; Lauric acid; Propionibacterium acnes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Decanoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lauric Acids / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Propionibacterium acnes / drug effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Decanoic Acids
  • Lauric Acids
  • NF-kappa B
  • lauric acid
  • decanoic acid
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases