Propionibacterium acnes

RANK: Species

TAXONOMY: Terrabacteria group -> Actinobacteria -> Actinobacteria -> Propionibacteriales -> Propionibacteriaceae -> Propionibacterium -> Propionibacterium acnes


Propionibacterium acnes is the relatively slow-growing, typically aerotolerant anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium (rod) linked to the skin condition of acne; it can also cause chronic blepharitis and endophthalmitis, the latter particularly following intraocular surgery. Elevated production of sebum by hyperactive sebaceous glands (sebaceous hyperplasia) or blockage of the follicle can cause P. acnes bacteria to grow and multiply. P. acnes bacteria secrete many proteins, including several digestive enzymes. 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. [PMC: 3224659] The genome of the bacterium has been sequenced and a study has shown several genes can generate enzymes for degrading skin and proteins that may be immunogenic. This bacterium is largely commensal and part of the skin flora present on most healthy adult humans' skin. It is usually just barely detectable on the skin of healthy preadolescents. It lives primarily on, among other things, fatty acids in sebum secreted by sebaceous glands in the follicles. It may also be found throughout the gastrointestinal tract in humans and many other animals.Identified as a constituent of the oral microbiome by Human Oral Microbiome Database. The bacterium is killed by ultraviolet light. P. acnes is also especially sensitive to light in the 405–420 nanometer (near the ultraviolet) range due to an endogenic porphyrin–coporphyrin III. P. acnes has been found in herniated discs. The propionic acid which it secretes creates micro-fractures of the surrounding bone. These micro-fractures are sensitive and it has been found that antibiotics have been helpful in resolving this type of low back pain.P. acnes can be found in bronchoalveolar lavage of approximately 70% of patients with sarcoidosis and is associated with disease activity, but it can be also found in 23% of controls. The subspecies of P. acnes that cause these infections of otherwise sterile tissues (prior to medical procedures), however, are the same subspecies found on the skin of individuals who do not have acne-prone skin, so are likely local contaminants. Moderate to severe acne vulgaris appears to be more often associated with virulent strains. Identified as constituent of vaginal microbiome. [PMID:23282177] Identified as constitutent of skin microbiome. [PMC 2746716]

This species has been identified as a resident in the human gastrointestinal tract based on the phylogenetic framework of its small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequences.[PMC 4262072]

Gut associated
Skin microbiome
Propionate producer
Oral microbiome
Vaginal microbiome
Group 18
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Mycobacterium avium
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans
  • Leifsonia xyli
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Mycobacterium leprae
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis
  • Mycobacterium
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Group 10
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Burkholderia multivorans
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Streptococcus agalactiae
  • Staphylococcus saprophyticus
  • Enterobacter
  • Staphylococcus haemolyticus
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Group 47
  • Streptococcus mutans
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis
  • Streptococcus sanguinis
  • Treponema denticola
  • Campylobacter concisus
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum
  • Streptococcus gordonii
  • Campylobacter curvus
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Group 5
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium adolescentis
  • Chloroflexus aurantiacus
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Saccharophagus degradans
  • Cytophaga hutchinsonii
  • Bacteroides fragilis
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Enterobacter
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Gramella forsetii
  • Clostridium acetobutylicum
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Colwellia psychrerythraea
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Peptoclostridium difficile
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum

    Substrates/ Growth Factors
  • Lecithin

  • Metabolic Endproducts
  • Propionate [parent]
  • Propionate
  • Vitamin B12 [parent]