The factors that initiate the inflammatory response in acne are not known. The presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines in acne comedones was therefore investigated. One hundred eight open comedones were collected from 18 untreated acne patients (10 male, 8 female). Each comedone was homogenized and centrifuged, and the supernatant was analyzed for bioactive and immunochemically detectable IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta, and TNF alpha. Viable counts of propionibacteria, staphylococci, and Malassezia spp. were determined in the comedone pellet. Bioactive IL-1 alpha-like material was demonstrated in 76% of open comedones (range of 23-4765 pg IL-1 alpha-like bioactivity/mg of comedone material). In 58% of comedones, levels exceeded 100 pg/mg. There was no correlation between IL-1 alpha-like bioactivity and IL-1 alpha determined immunochemically. Bioactive IL-1 beta was not detected in any comedones. Twenty-four percent contained low levels of immunochemical IL-1 beta (range 12-103 pg IL-1 beta/mg comedone material). Bioactive TNF alpha was detected in three comedones with a further five comedones containing immunochemical TNF alpha (range of 61-820 pg TNF alpha/mg comedone material). The majority of open comedones (97%) contained microorganisms. There was, however, no significant correlation (Spearman’s rank) between levels of any cytokine, in particular IL-1 alpha-like bioactivity, and numbers of microorganisms. Thus, bioactive IL-1 alpha-like material in the majority of open comedones may be concerned in the initiation of inflammation in acne following spongiosis or rupture of the pilosebaceous follicle wall.
Ingham E, Eady EA, Goodwin CE, Cove JH, Cunliffe WJ