Back to Journals » Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology » Volume 13

Biguanides Induce Acute de novo Lipogenesis in Human Primary Sebocytes

Authors Nicoll J, Buehrer BM

Received 20 December 2019

Accepted for publication 11 February 2020

Published 24 February 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 197—207


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Jeffrey Weinberg

James Nicoll, Benjamin M Buehrer

Zen-Bio, Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC, USA

Correspondence: Benjamin M Buehrer
Zen-Bio, Inc., 3200 East Highway 54, Suite 100, PO Box 13888, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
Tel +1 919 547 0692
Fax +1 919 547 0693

Introduction: Acne arises during puberty, in part, due to elevated hormones and growth factors which stimulate de novo lipogenesis (DNL) in primary sebocytes to significantly increase sebum production. Oral isotretinoin is an effective acne therapy, reducing sebum production through inducing apoptosis in sebocytes. However, isotretinoin is teratogenic and has additional unwanted side effects, including an initial acne flare-up, which limits its utility. The biguanide, metformin has been found to alleviate severe acne in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) through normalization of their insulin and androgen hormone levels. Metformin’s broader effectiveness to improve acne in non-PCOS populations lacks significant clinical support. In an effort to determine whether biguanides directly affect sebogenesis, we investigated their ability to alter DNL in cell-based assays in vitro.
Methods: De novo lipogenesis was measured in human primary sebocytes using [14C]-acetate labeling. Lipid species analysis was performed by extracting newly synthesized lipids and subjecting them to thin layer chromatography. Gene expression changes in sebocytes were identified through qPCR analysis of isolated RNA. Metabolic parameters including oxygen consumption rate, lactate production and activation of adenosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase (AMPK) were assessed in human primary sebocytes.
Results: Using human primary sebocytes, we found that biguanides, isotretinoin and azithromycin induced an acute dose and time-dependent increase in [14C]-acetate labeling of neutral lipids, while AICAR, an AMPK activator, inhibited this DNL response. Biguanides did not activate AMPK in sebocytes, however, they significantly reduced oxygen consumption rate and increased lactate production. Treatment with biguanides, but not isotretinoin, significantly upregulated ACSS2 gene expression in primary sebocytes and showed synergism with lipogenic activators to induce DNL genes.
Discussion: These changes are consistent with an acute increase in sebocyte lipogenesis and support the potential of biguanides to cause an initial flare-up in patients suffering from severe acne.

Keywords: sebocytes, acne, metformin, de novo lipogenesis, sebaceous gland

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]