Propionibacterium acnes-induced immunopathology correlates with health and disease association

JCI Insight. 2019 Mar 7;4(5):e124687. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.124687.


Genomic studies revealed the existence of health- and acne-associated P. acnes strains and suggested novel approaches for broadening understanding of acne vulgaris. However, clinical association of P. acnes with disease or health has yet to be corroborated experimentally. Current animal models of acne do not closely mimic human disease and have unclear translational value. We have developed a murine model of acne by combining P. acnes inoculation with topical application of a synthetic human sebum. We showed that human sebum promoted persistence of intradermally injected P. acnes with little loss of viability after 1 week and permitted use of more physiologic inoculums. Application of acne-associated P. acnes RT4/5 strains led to development of moderate to severe skin pathology compared with application of health-associated type II P. acnes strains (RT2/6). RT4/5 P. acnes strains uniformly induced higher levels of KC (IL-8), IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-6 in vitro and in vivo compared with type II P. acnes strains. Overall, our data provide immunopathologic corroboration of health and disease association of clinical P. acnes strains and inform on a platform to query putative virulence factors uncovered by genomic studies.

Keywords: Dermatology; Microbiology; Mouse models; Skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / genetics
  • Acne Vulgaris / immunology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1alpha / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Propionibacterium acnes / immunology*
  • Propionibacterium acnes / pathogenicity
  • Skin / immunology*
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Virulence Factors


  • Interleukin-1alpha
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Virulence Factors