A Cutibacterium acnes antibiotic modulates human skin microbiota composition in hair follicles

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Science Translational Medicine  18 Nov 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 570, eaay5445
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aay5445

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A microbiota that is only skin deep

Interspecies interactions influence the composition of microbial communities, but their mechanisms are poorly understood. Claesen et al. now identify an antibiotic called cutimycin produced by a ubiquitous member of the human skin and nasal microbiota, Cutibacterium acnes. The authors show that cutimycin inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus in human skin hair follicles, helping to shape the composition of the hair follicle microbiota.


The composition of the skin microbiota varies widely among individuals when sampled at the same body site. A key question is which molecular factors determine strain-level variability within sub-ecosystems of the skin microbiota. Here, we used a genomics-guided approach to identify an antibacterial biosynthetic gene cluster in Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes), a human skin commensal bacterium that is widely distributed across individuals and skin sites. Experimental characterization of this biosynthetic gene cluster resulted in identification of a new thiopeptide antibiotic, cutimycin. Analysis of individual human skin hair follicles revealed that cutimycin contributed to the ecology of the skin hair follicle microbiota and helped to reduce colonization of skin hair follicles by Staphylococcus species.

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