Identification of the Δ-6 desaturase of human sebaceous glands: Expression and enzyme activity

Lan Ge, Joel S. Gordon, Charleen Hsuan, Kurt Stenn, Stephen M. Prouty

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103 Scopus citations


Δ-6 desaturase, also known as fatty acid desaturase-2 (FADS2), is a component of a lipid metabolic pathway that converts the essential fatty acids linoleate and α-linolenate into long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Isolation of Δ-6 desaturase/FADS2 cDNA from human skin predicts an identical protein to that expressed in human brain and Southern analysis indicates a single locus, together suggestive of a single Δ-6 desaturase/FADS2 gene. Within human skin, Δ-6 desaturase/FADS2 mRNA and protein expression is restricted to differentiating sebocytes located in the suprabasal layers of the sebaceous gland. Enzymatic analysis using CHO cells overexpressing human Δ-6 desaturase/FADS2 indicates catalysis of a "polyunsaturated fatty acid type" reaction, but also an unexpected "sebaceous-type" reaction, that of converting palmitate into the mono-unsaturated fatty acid sapienate, a 16-carbon fatty acid with a single cis double bond at the sixth carbon from the carboxyl end. Sapienate is the most abundant fatty acid in human sebum, and among hair-bearing animals is restricted to humans. This work identifies Δ-6 desaturase/FADS2 as the major fatty acid desaturase in human sebaceous glands and suggests that the environment of the sebaceous gland permits catalysis of the sebaceous-type reaction and restricts catalysis of the polyunsaturated fatty acid type reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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