Human sebum requires de novo lipogenesis, which is increased in acne vulgaris and suppressed by acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibition

William P. Esler, Gregory J. Tesz, Marc K. Hellerstein, Carine Beysen, Raja K Sivamani, Scott M. Turner, Steven M. Watkins, Paul A. Amor, Santos Carvajal-Gonzalez, Frank J. Geoly, Kathleen E. Biddle, Julie J. Purkal, Mark Fitch, Clare Buckeridge, Annette M. Silvia, David A. Griffith, Matthew Gorgoglione, Lauren Hassoun, Suzana S. Bosanac, Nicholas B. VeraTimothy P. Rolph, Jeffrey A. Pfefferkorn, Gabriele E. Sonnenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Sebum plays important physiological roles in human skin. Excess sebum production contributes to the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris, and suppression of sebum production reduces acne incidence and severity. We demonstrate that sebum production in humans depends on local flux through the de novo lipogenesis (DNL) pathway within the sebocyte. About 80 to 85% of sebum palmitate (16:0) and sapienate (16:1n10) were derived from DNL, based on stable isotope labeling, much higher than the contribution of DNL to triglyceride palmitate in circulation (∼20%), indicating a minor contribution by nonskin sources to sebum lipids. This dependence on local sebocyte DNL was not recapitulated in two widely used animal models of sebum production, Syrian hamsters and Göttingen minipigs. Confirming the importance of DNL for human sebum production, an acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor, ACCi-1, dose-dependently suppressed DNL and blocked synthesis of fatty acids, triglycerides, and wax esters but not free sterols in human sebocytes in vitro. ACCi-1 dose-dependently suppressed facial sebum excretion by ∼50% (placebo adjusted) in human individuals dosed orally for 2 weeks. Sebum triglycerides, wax esters, and free fatty acids were suppressed by ∼66%, whereas non-DNL-dependent lipid species, cholesterol, and squalene were not reduced, confirming selective modulation of DNL-dependent lipids. Last, individuals with acne vulgaris exhibited increased sebum production rates relative to individuals with normal skin, with >80% of palmitate and sapienate derived from DNL. These findings highlight the importance of local sebocyte DNL for human skin sebaceous gland biology and illuminate a potentially exploitable therapeutic target for the treatment of acne vulgaris.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaau8465
JournalScience Translational Medicine
Issue number492
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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