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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 May;120(5):707-14.

Identification of the delta-6 desaturase of human sebaceous glands: expression and enzyme activity.

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  • 1The Skin Research Center of Johnson and Johnson, CPWW., Skillman, New Jersey, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Aug;121(2):434.


Delta-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 alpha-linolenate into long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Isolation of Delta-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 Delta-6 desaturase/FADS2 gene. Within human skin, Delta-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 Delta-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 Delta-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.

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