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Protein discovered in P. acnes protects against oxidative stress

Propionibacterium acnes (Photo: Matthias Mörgelin, Lund University)

Propionibacterium acnes Photo by Matthias Mörgelin, Lund University

Investigators at the Lund University in Sweden have discovered that Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) secrete a protein that provides protection from the reactive oxygen species thought to contribute to several skin diseases.

According to the study, published in Scientific Reports (Nov. 2, 2016; 6(36412)), the novel enzyme—radical oxygenase of P. acnes(RoxP)— protects against oxidative stress such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Oxidative stress is considered to be a contributing factor in several skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and skin cancer.

“The name originates from the fact that the bacterium was first discovered on a patient with severe acne. But whether it causes acne is uncertain—it may have been present merely because it is so common,” said Rolf Lood, PhD, Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund, in a press release.

“This protein is important for the bacterium’s very survival on our skin. The bacterium improves its living environment by secreting RoxP, but in doing so it also benefits us,” explained Dr. Lood.

Since P. acnes is so common, it is present in both healthy individuals and people with skin diseases. According to Dr. Lood, however, people have different amounts of the bacterium on their skin, and it can also produce more or less of the protective protein RoxP.

This will now be further investigated in both patients and laboratory animals by Dr. Lood and his team. The human study will compare patients with basal cell carcinoma and a healthy control group. The study will be able to show whether there is any connection between the degree of illness and the amount of RoxP on the patient’s skin.

The study on laboratory animals will examine whether RoxP also functions as protection. In this investigation, mice that have been given RoxP and others who have not will be exposed to UV radiation. The researchers will then observe whether the RoxP mice have a better outcome than those that were not given the protective protein.

“If the study results are positive, they could lead to the inclusion of RoxP in sunscreens and its use in the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis,” said Dr. Lood.

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