Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Proteomic identification of secreted proteins of Propionibacterium acnes

Carsten Holland1, Tim N Mak1, Ursula Zimny-Arndt2, Monika Schmid2, Thomas F Meyer1, Peter R Jungblut2 and Holger Brüggemann1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany

2 Proteomics Core Facility, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:230  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-230

Published: 27 August 2010



The anaerobic Gram-positive bacterium Propionibacterium acnes is a human skin commensal that resides preferentially within sebaceous follicles; however, it also exhibits many traits of an opportunistic pathogen, playing roles in a variety of inflammatory diseases such as acne vulgaris. To date, the underlying disease-causing mechanisms remain ill-defined and knowledge of P. acnes virulence factors remains scarce. Here, we identified proteins secreted during anaerobic cultivation of a range of skin and clinical P. acnes isolates, spanning the four known phylogenetic groups.


Culture supernatant proteins of P. acnes were separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) and all Coomassie-stained spots were subsequently identified by MALDI mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). A set of 20 proteins was secreted in the mid-exponential growth phase by the majority of strains tested. Functional annotation revealed that many of these common proteins possess degrading activities, including glycoside hydrolases with similarities to endoglycoceramidase, β-N-acetylglucosaminidase and muramidase; esterases such as lysophospholipase and triacylglycerol lipase; and several proteases. Other secreted factors included Christie-Atkins-Munch-Petersen (CAMP) factors, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), and several hypothetical proteins, a few of which are unique to P. acnes. Strain-specific differences were apparent, mostly in the secretion of putative adhesins, whose genes exhibit variable phase variation-like sequence signatures.


Our proteomic investigations have revealed that the P. acnes secretome harbors several proteins likely to play a role in host-tissue degradation and inflammation. Despite a large overlap between the secretomes of all four P. acnes phylotypes, distinct differences between predicted host-tissue interacting proteins were identified, providing potential insight into the differential virulence properties of P. acnes isolates. Thus, our data presents a rich resource for guiding much-needed investigations on P. acnes virulence factors and host interacting properties.