Skin microbiome differentiates into distinct cutotypes with unique metabolic functions upon exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Marcus H.Y. Leung, Xinzhao Tong, Zhiyong Shen, Shicong Du, Philippe Bastien, Brice M.R. Appenzeller, Richard J. Betts, Sakina Mezzache, Nasrine Bourokba, Nukhet Cavusoglu, Luc Aguilar, Namita Misra, Cécile Clavaud, Patrick K.H. Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The effects of air pollutants, particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), on the skin microbiome remain poorly understood. Thus, to better understand the interplay between air pollutants, microbiomes, and skin conditions, we applied metagenomics and metabolomics to analyze the effects of PAHs in air pollution on the skin microbiomes of over 120 subjects residing in two cities in China with different levels of air pollution. Results: The skin microbiomes differentiated into two cutotypes (termed 1 and 2) with distinct taxonomic, functional, resistome, and metabolite compositions as well as skin phenotypes that transcended geography and host factors. High PAH exposure was linked to dry skin and cutotype 2, which was enriched with species with potential biodegradation functions and had reduced correlation network structure integrity. The positive correlations identified between dominant taxa, key functional genes, and metabolites in the arginine biosynthesis pathway in cutotype 1 suggest that arginine from bacteria contributes to the synthesis of filaggrin-derived natural moisturizing factors (NMFs), which provide hydration for the skin, and could explain the normal skin phenotype observed. In contrast, no correlation with the arginine biosynthesis pathway was observed in cutotype 2, which indicates the limited hydration functions of NMFs and explains the observed dry skin phenotype. In addition to dryness, skin associated with cutotype 2 appeared prone to other adverse conditions such as inflammation. Conclusions: This study revealed the roles of PAHs in driving skin microbiome differentiation into cutotypes that vary extensively in taxonomy and metabolic functions and may subsequently lead to variations in skin–microbe interactions that affect host skin health. An improved understanding of the roles of microbiomes on skin exposed to air pollutants can aid the development of strategies that harness microbes to prevent undesirable skin conditions. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Skin microbiome differentiates into distinct cutotypes with unique metabolic functions upon exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this