Vitamin B12 Modulates the Transcriptome of the Skin Microbiota in Acne Pathogenesis

Dezhi Kang, Baochen Shi, Marie C. Erfe, Noah Craft and Huiying Li.

Skin bacteria are thought to play an important role in the development of acne vulgaris, one of the most common skin diseases throughout the world. However, the bacterial pathogenesis mechanism has not been well defined. We employed RNA-Seq to compare the metatranscriptomic profiles of the skin microbiota in pilosebaceous units from acne patients and normal individuals. The gene expression profile of Propionibacterium acnes, the most transcriptionally abundant bacterium, separated acne patients from normal individuals. P. acnes vitamin B12 biosynthesis, which is inversely correlated with porphyrin biosynthesis, was down-regulated in acne. When a high dose of vitamin B12 was given to normal individuals, the P. acnes vitamin B12 biosynthesis pathway was repressed and a subset of the subjects developed acne. Furthermore, significant increase in porphyrin production, which is thought to be involved in the inflammation of acne, was observed upon vitamin B12 supplement to P. acnes cultures. Our findings demonstrated that the level of vitamin B12 in the host affects the transcriptional regulation of the skin microbiota, which in turn influences the health of the host. Our study suggests a novel mechanism of metabolite-mediated interactions between the host and the skin microbiota, which could explain the bacterial pathogenesis mechanism of acne in a subgroup of patients.

Science Translational Medicine 24 Jun 2015: Vol. 7, Issue 293, pp. 293ra103 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2009