Cutibacterium acnes phylotypes diversity loss: a trigger for skin inflammatory process

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Dec;33(12):2340-2348. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15795. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Background: Acne has long been understood as a multifactorial chronic inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous follicle, where Cutibacterium acnes (subdivided into six main phylotypes) is a crucial factor. In parallel, the loss of microbial diversity among the skin commensal communities has recently been shown as often accompanied by inflammatory skin disorders.

Objective: This study investigated the association of C. acnes phylotype diversity loss and the impact on Innate Immune System (IIS) activation.

Methods: The IIS response of skin after incubation with phylotypes IA1, II or III individually and with the combination of IA1 + II + III phylotypes, was studied in an in vitro skin explant system. The inflammatory response was monitored by immunohistochemistry and ELISA assays, targeting a selection of Innate Immune Markers (IIMs) (IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-17, TGF-β).

Results: IIMs were significantly upregulated in skin when being incubated with phylotype IA1 alone compared with the combination IA1 + II + III. In parallel, ELISA assays confirmed these results in supernatants for IL-17, IL-8 and IL-10.

Conclusion: We identify the loss of C. acnes phylotype diversity as a trigger for IIS activation, leading to cutaneous inflammation. These innovative data underline the possibility to set up new approaches to treat acne. Indeed, maintaining the balance between the different phylotypes of C. acnes may be an interesting target for the development of drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dermatitis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Propionibacteriaceae / classification*
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • Cutibacterium acnes subsp. acnes