Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of capric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: A comparative study with lauric acid

Wen Cheng Huang, Tsung Hsien Tsai, Lu Te Chuang, You Yi Li, Christos C. Zouboulis, Po Jung Tsai

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49 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is a commensal bacterium which is possibly involved in acne inflammation. The saturated fatty acid, lauric acid (C12:0) has been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties against P. acnes. Little is known concerning the potential effects of its decanoic counterpart, capric acid (C10:0). Objective: To examine the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of capric acid against P. acnes and to investigate the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory action. Methods: The antimicrobial activity of fatty acids was detected using the broth dilution method. An evaluation of P. acnes-induced ear edema in mice was conducted to evaluate the in vivo anti-inflammatory effect. To elucidate the in vitro anti-inflammatory effect, human SZ95 sebocytes and monocytic THP-1 cells were treated with P. acnes alone or in the presence of a fatty acid. The mRNA levels and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines were measured by qRT-PCR and enzyme immunoassay, respectively. NF-κB activation and MAPK expression were analyzed by ELISA and Western blot, respectively. Results: Lauric acid had stronger antimicrobial activity against P. acnes than capric acid in vitro and in vivo. However, both fatty acids attenuated P. acnes-induced ear swelling in mice along with microabscess and significantly reduced interleukin (IL)-6 and CXCL8 (also known as IL-8) production in P. acnes-stimulated SZ95 sebocytes. P. acnes-induced mRNA levels and secretion of IL-8 and TNF-α in THP-1 cells were suppressed by both fatty acids, which inhibited NF-κB activation and the phosphorylation of MAP kinases. Conclusion: Our data demonstrate that both capric acid and lauric acid exert bactericidal and anti-inflammatory activities against P. acnes. The anti-inflammatory effect may partially occur through the inhibition of NF-κB activation and the phosphorylation of MAP kinases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-240
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dermatological Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Mar 1



  • Anti-inflammation
  • Antibacterial
  • Capric acid
  • Lauric acid
  • Propionibacterium acnes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology

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