Research Press Release

Health: Insights into acne development reveal potential treatment target

Nature Communications

October 21, 2020

Expression of the protein GATA6 is reduced in cases of acne, reports a study in Nature Communications. The findings suggest that this protein could be a target for the development of treatments in the future.

Acne is one of the most common skin diseases and affects about 650 million people worldwide. However, the molecular mechanisms responsible for its development are not completely understood.

The protein GATA6 (GATA-binding protein 6) is expressed in the upper pilosebaceous unit of human skin (the hair follicle and associated sebaceous glands). Fiona Watt and colleagues examined skin biopsies from five healthy controls and nine patients with different degrees of acne severity, and observed that levels of GATA6 were reduced in acne cases. Using human skin cell lines, the authors found that GATA6 controls several physiological processes that contribute to the homeostasis of the upper pilosebaceous unit. One such process was control of the proliferation and differentiation of keratinocytes (epidermal cells) in the hair follicle, which is unregulated in acne. They also found that GATA6 expression was induced by retinoic acid, which is used as an acne treatment.

By developing a human sebaceous organoid model, Watt and co-authors obtained evidence that, through a signalling pathway, GATA6 may also prevent the formation of comedones (clogged pores). The authors conclude that their findings could open up new avenues for the research and treatment of this disease.

doi:10.1038/s41467-020-18784-z

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