Pan-Genome and Comparative Genome Analyses of Propionibacterium acnes Reveal Its Genomic Diversity in the Healthy and Diseased Human Skin Microbiome

Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA.
mBio (Impact Factor: 6.79). 04/2013; 4(3). DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00003-13
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Unlabelled:
Propionibacterium acnes constitutes a major part of the skin microbiome and contributes to human health. However, it has also been implicated as a pathogenic factor in several diseases, including acne, one of the most common skin diseases. Its pathogenic role, however, remains elusive. To better understand the genetic landscape and diversity of the organism and its role in human health and disease, we performed a comparative genome analysis of 82 P. acnes strains, 69 of which were sequenced by our group. This collection covers all known P. acnes lineages, including types IA, IB, II, and III. Our analysis demonstrated that although the P. acnes pan-genome is open, it is relatively small and expands slowly. The core regions, shared by all the sequenced genomes, accounted for 88% of the average genome. Comparative genome analysis showed that within each lineage, the strains isolated from the same individuals were more closely related than the ones isolated from different individuals, suggesting that clonal expansions occurred within each individual microbiome. We also identified the genetic elements specific to each lineage. Differences in harboring these elements may explain the phenotypic and functional differences of P. acnes in functioning as a commensal in healthy skin and as a pathogen in diseases. Our findings of the differences among P. acnes strains at the genome level underscore the importance of identifying the human microbiome variations at the strain level in understanding its association with diseases and provide insight into novel and personalized therapeutic approaches for P. acnes-related diseases.

Propionibacterium acnes is a major human skin bacterium. It plays an important role in maintaining skin health. However, it has also been hypothesized to be a pathogenic factor in several diseases, including acne, a common skin disease affecting 85% of teenagers. To understand whether different strains have different virulent properties and thus play different roles in health and diseases, we compared the genomes of 82 P. acnes strains, most of which were isolated from acne or healthy skin. We identified lineage-specific genetic elements that may explain the phenotypic and functional differences of P. acnes as a commensal in health and as a pathogen in diseases. By analyzing a large number of sequenced strains, we provided an improved understanding of the genetic landscape and diversity of the organism at the strain level and at the molecular level that can be further applied in the development of new and personalized therapies.

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    • "A total of 12 of the 90 P. acnes genomes identified by the blastn search were not included in our phylogenetic analysis. Two were recently added to the P. acnes databases, i.e. the strains HL042PA3 [25] and DSM 1897. The following strains were previously identified as P. acnes by [19]: 409-HC1, 434-HC2, 5U42AFAA and CC003-HC2. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium Propionibacterium acnes is a prevalent member of the normal skin microbiota of human adults. In addition to its suspected role in acne vulgaris it is involved in a variety of opportunistic infections. Multi-locus sequence-typing (MLST) schemes identified distinct phylotypes associated with health and disease. Being based on 8 to 9 house-keeping genes these MLST schemes have a high discriminatory power, but their application is time- and cost-intensive. Here we describe a single-locus sequence typing (SLST) scheme for P. acnes. The target locus was identified with a genome mining approach that took advantage of the availability of representative genome sequences of all known phylotypes of P. acnes. We applied this SLST on a collection of 188 P. acnes strains and demonstrated a resolution comparable to that of existing MLST schemes. Phylogenetic analysis applied to the SLST locus resulted in clustering patterns identical to a reference tree based on core genome sequences. We further demonstrate that SLST can be applied to detect multiple phylotypes in complex microbial communities by a metagenomic pyrosequencing approach. The described SLST strategy may be applied to any bacterial species with a basically clonal population structure to achieve easy typing and mapping of multiple phylotypes in complex microbiotas. The P. acnes SLST database can be found at
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e104199. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0104199 · 3.23 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Investigative Dermatology 06/2013; 133(9). DOI:10.1038/jid.2013.275 · 7.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We previously described a Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) scheme based on eight genes that facilitates population genetic and evolutionary analysis of P. acnes. While MLST is a portable method for unambiguous typing of bacteria, it is expensive and labour intensive. Against this background, we now describe a refined version of this scheme based on two housekeeping (aroE; guaA) and two putative virulence (tly; camp2) genes (MLST4) that correctly predicted the phylogroup (IA1, IA2, IB, IC, II, III), clonal complex (CC) and sequence type (ST) (novel or described) status for 91% isolates (n = 372) via cross-referencing of the four gene allelic profiles to the full eight gene versions available in the MLST database ( Even in the small number of cases where specific STs were not completely resolved, the MLST4 method still correctly determined phylogroup and CC membership. Examination of nucleotide changes within all the MLST loci provides evidence that point mutations generate new alleles approximately 1.5 times as frequently as recombination; although the latter still plays an important role in the bacterium's evolution. The secreted/cell-associated 'virulence' factors tly and camp2 show no clear evidence of episodic or pervasive positive selection and have diversified at a rate similar to housekeeping loci. The co-evolution of these genes with the core genome might also indicate a role in commensal/normal existence constraining their diversity and preventing their loss from the P. acnes population. The possibility that members of the expanded CAMP factor protein family, including camp2, may have been lost from other propionibacteria, but not P. acnes, would further argue for a possible role in niche/host adaption leading to their retention within the genome. These evolutionary insights may prove important for discussions surrounding camp2 as an immunotherapy target for acne, and the effect such treatments may have on commensal lineages.
    PLoS ONE 09/2013; 8(9):e70897. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0070897 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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