Progressive macular hypomelanosis (PMH) is a common skin disorder that causes hypopigmentation in a variety of skin types. Although the underlying aetiology of this condition is unclear, there is circumstantial evidence that links the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes to the condition. We now describe the first detailed population genetic analysis of P. acnes isolates recovered from paired lesional and non-lesional skin of PMH patients. Our results demonstrate a strong statistical association between strains from the type III phylogenetic lineage and PMH lesions (P = 0.0019), but not those representing other phylogroups, including those associated with acne (type IA1). We also demonstrate, based on in silico 16S rDNA analysis, that PMH isolates previously recovered from patients in Europe are also consistent with the type III lineage. Using comparative genome analysis, we identified multiple genomic regions that are specific for, or absent from, type III strains compared to other phylogroups. In the former case, these include open reading frames with putative functions in metabolism, transport and transcriptional regulation, as well as predicted proteins of unknown function. Further study of these genomic elements, along with transcriptional and functional analyses, may help to explain why type III strains are associated with PMH.
- Journal Article