Background A clear-cut need exists for safe and effective alternatives to the use of isotretinoin in severe acne. Lack of data regarding the specifics of isotretinoin's mechanism of action has hampered progress in this area. Recently, the protein neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) has been identified as a mediator of the apoptotic effect of isotretinoin on sebocytes. Objectives To establish further the clinical relevance of NGAL and to elucidate the factors that induce NGAL expression in sebocytes. Methods Methods were developed to isolate and quantify skin-surface levels of NGAL from normal subjects and patients with acne undergoing treatment with isotretinoin. Results Patients with acne were found to have higher skin levels of NGAL compared with normal subjects. Studies in SEB-1 sebocytes indicate that NGAL expression is increased in response to Propionibacterium acnes and interleukin (IL)-1β. In patients, isotretinoin increases NGAL levels by 2·4-fold on the skin surface and this increase precedes decreases in sebum and P. acnes counts. Conclusions These data support the hypothesis that NGAL is an important mediator of the early effects of isotretinoin on the sebaceous glands and provide insights into the mechanisms that regulate NGAL expression in the skin.
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