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J Invest Dermatol. 1978 Dec;71(6):398-401.

A reappraisal of the role of Pityrosporum orbiculare in pityriasis versicolor and the significance of extracellular lipase.


Pityrosporum orbiculare is an obligate lipophilic yeast in vitro, which suggests it possesses an extracellular lipase crucial for nutrition. If present in vivo, the enzyme would enable the yeast to utilize skin surface lipids, which may therfore play an important role in the pathogenesis of pityriasis versicolor. Cultured P. orbiculare and biopsy material from patients with pityriasis versicolor were investigated for the presence of lipase by electron microscope histochemistry. At sites of lipase activity, fatty acid hydrolyzed from Tween 80 substrate reacts with Ca++ ions to form an insoluble Ca++ soap. Exchange of Ca++ with Pb++ enables the sites of lipase activity to be visualized as electron dense deposits of insoluble lead soap. Surface lipase activity was apparent when the technique was applied to P. orbiculare grown on lipid containing medium and its specificity confirmed by removal of substrate and inhibition by di-isopropyl fluorophosphate and quinine hydrochloride, but not by sodium fluoride. When the same technique was applied to stratum corneum infected with Pityrosporum furfur (Malassez), no reaction product could be detected. It is postulated that lipase, although critical for fungal nutrition in vitro, is unlikely to be of importance in vivo. Skin surface lipids are therefore probably not relevant to the pathogenesis of pityriasis versicolor.

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