In this issue of Cell Host & Microbe, Yeung et al. (2020) and Lin et al. (2020) expose laboratory mice to a natural environment and use immune and microbiota characterization to show that fungi promote more human-like immunity. These studies will help develop animal models to more accurately resemble human immune responses.
At the species level, immunity depends on the selection and transmission of protective components of the immune system. A microbe-induced population of RORg -expressing regulatory T cells (Tregs) is essential in controlling gut inflammation. We uncovered a non-genetic, non-epigenetic, non-microbial mode of transmission of their homeostatic setpoint. RORg+ Treg proportions varied between inbred mouse strains, a trait transmitted by the mother during a tight age window after birth but stable for life, resistant to many microbial or cellular perturbations, then further transferred by females for multiple generations. RORg+ Treg proportions negatively correlated with IgA production and coating of gut commensals, traits also subject to maternal transmission, in an immunoglobulin- and RORg+ Treg-dependent manner. We propose a model based on a double-negative feedback loop, vertically transmitted via the entero-mammary axis. This immunologicmode of multi-generational transmission may provide adaptability and modulate the genetic tuning of gut immune responses and inflammatory disease susceptibility.
Although maternal antibodies protect newborn babies from infection1,2, little is known about how protective antibodies are induced without prior pathogen exposure. Here we show that neonatal mice that lack the capacity to produce IgG are protected from infection with the enteric pathogen enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli by maternal natural IgG antibodies against enterotoxigenic E. coli when antibodies are delivered either across the placenta or through breast milk. By challenging pups that were fostered by either maternal antibody-sufficient or antibody-deficient dams, we found that breast-milk-derived IgG was critical for protection against mucosal disease induced by enterotoxigenic E. coli. IgG also provides protection against systemic infection by E. coli. Pups used the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) to transfer IgG from milk into serum. The maternal commensal microbiota can induce antibodies that recognize antigens expressed by enterotoxigenic E. coli and other Enterobacteriaceae species. Induction of maternal antibodies against a commensal Pantoea species confers protection against enterotoxigenic E. coli in pups. This role of the microbiota in eliciting protective antibodies to a specific neonatal pathogen represents an important host defence mechanism against infection in neonates.
The metabolic pathways encoded by the human gut microbiome constantly interact with host gene products through numerous bioactive molecules1. Primary bile acids (BAs) are synthesized within hepatocytes and released into the duodenum to facilitate absorption of lipids or fat-soluble vitamins2. Some BAs (~5%) escape into the colon, where gut commensal bacteria convert them into a variety of intestinal BAs2 that are important hormones regulating host cholesterol metabolism and energy balance via several nuclear receptors and/or G protein–coupled receptors3,4. These receptors play pivotal roles in shaping host innate immune responses1,5. However, the impact of this host–microbe biliary network on the adaptive immune system remains poorly characterized. Here we report that both dietary and microbial factors influence the composition of the gut BA pool and modulate an important population of colonic Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) expressing the transcriptional factor RORγ. Genetic abolition of BA metabolic pathways in individual gut symbionts significantly decreases this Treg population. Restoration of the intestinal BA pool increases colonic RORγ+ Treg levels and ameliorates host susceptibility to inflammatory colitis via BA nuclear receptors. Thus, a pan-genomic biliary network interaction between hosts and their bacterial symbionts can control host immunologic homeostasis via the resulting metabolites.
Glycoconjugate vaccines are among the most effective interventions for preventing several serious infectious diseases. Covalent linkage of the bacterial capsular polysaccharide to a carrier protein provides CD4 T cells with epitopes that facilitate a memory response to the polysaccharide. Classically, the mechanism responsible for antigen processing was thought to be similar to what was known for hapten-carrier conjugates: protease digestion of the carrier protein in the endosome and presentation of a resulting peptide to the T cell receptor on classical peptide-recognizing CD4 T cells. Recently, an alternative mechanism has been shown to be responsible for the memory response to some glycoconjugates. Processing of both the protein and the polysaccharide creates glycopeptides in the endosome of antigen-presenting cells. For presentation, the peptide portion of the glycopeptide is bound to MHCII, allowing the covalently linked glycan to activate carbohydrate-specific helper CD4 T cells (Tcarbs). Herein, we assessed whether this same mechanism applies to conjugates prepared from other capsular polysaccharides. All of the glycoconjugates tested induced Tcarb-dependent responses except that made with group C ; in the latter case, only peptides generated from the carrier protein were critical for helper T cell recognition. Digestion of this acid-sensitive polysaccharide, a linear homopolymer of α(2 → 9)-linked sialic acid, to the size of the monomeric unit resulted in a dominant CD4 T cell response to peptides in the context of MHCII. Our results show that different mechanisms of presentation, based on the structure of the carbohydrate, are operative in response to different glycoconjugate vaccines.
Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of tularemia, a category A bioterrorism agent. The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) O antigen (OAg) of has been considered for use in a glycoconjugate vaccine, but conjugate vaccines tested so far have failed to confer protection necessary against aerosolized pulmonary bacterial challenge. When OAg was purified under standard conditions, the antigen had a small molecular size [25 kDa, low molecular weight (LMW)]. Using milder extraction conditions, we found the native OAg had a larger molecular size [80 kDa, high molecular weight (HMW)], and in a mouse model of tularemia, a glycoconjugate vaccine made with the HMW polysaccharide coupled to tetanus toxoid (HMW-TT) conferred better protection against intranasal challenge than a conjugate made with the LMW polysaccharide (LMW-TT). To further investigate the role of OAg size in protection, we created an live vaccine strain (LVS) mutant with a significantly increased OAg size [220 kDa, very high molecular weight (VHMW)] by expressing a heterologous chain-length regulator gene () from the related species Immunization with VHMW-TT provided markedly increased protection over that obtained with TT glycoconjugates made using smaller OAgs. We found that protective antibodies recognize a length-dependent epitope better expressed on HMW and VHMW antigens, which bind with higher affinity to the organism.
Within the human gut reside diverse microbes coexisting with the host in a mutually advantageous relationship. Evidence has revealed the pivotal role of the gut microbiota in shaping the immune system. To date, only a few of these microbes have been shown to modulate specific immune parameters. Herein, we broadly identify the immunomodulatory effects of phylogenetically diverse human gut microbes. We monocolonized mice with each of 53 individual bacterial species and systematically analyzed host immunologic adaptation to colonization. Most microbes exerted several specialized, complementary, and redundant transcriptional and immunomodulatory effects. Surprisingly, these were independent of microbial phylogeny. Microbial diversity in the gut ensures robustness of the microbiota's ability to generate a consistent immunomodulatory impact, serving as a highly important epigenetic system. This study provides a foundation for investigation of gut microbiota-host mutualism, highlighting key players that could identify important therapeutics.
The immunomodulatory surface molecules of commensal and pathogenic bacteria are critical to microorganisms' survival and the host's response1,2. Recent studies have highlighted the unique and important responses elicited by commensal-derived surface macromolecules3-5. However, the technology available to track these molecules in host cells and tissues remains primitive. We report, here, an interdisciplinary approach that uses metabolic labelling combined with bioorthogonal click chemistry (that is, reactions performed in living organisms)6 to specifically tag up to three prominent surface immunomodulatory macromolecules-peptidoglycan, lipopolysaccharide and capsular polysaccharide-either simultaneously or individually in live anaerobic commensal bacteria. Importantly, the peptidoglycan labelling enables, for the first time, the specific labelling of live endogenous, anaerobic bacteria within the mammalian host. This approach has allowed us to image and track the path of labelled surface molecules from live, luminal bacteria into specific intestinal immune cells in the living murine host during health and disease. The chemical labelling of three specific macromolecules within a live organism offers the potential for in-depth visualization of host-pathogen interactions.
Microbiome-wide association studies have established that numerous diseases are associated with changes in the microbiota. These studies typically generate a long list of commensals implicated as biomarkers of disease, with no clear relevance to disease pathogenesis. If the field is to move beyond correlations and begin to address causation, an effective system is needed for refining this catalogue of differentially abundant microbes and to allow subsequent mechanistic studies. Here we demonstrate that triangulation of microbe-phenotype relationships is an effective method for reducing the noise inherent in microbiota studies and enabling identification of causal microbes. We found that gnotobiotic mice harbouring different microbial communities exhibited differential survival in a colitis model. Co-housing of these mice generated animals that had hybrid microbiotas and displayed intermediate susceptibility to colitis. Mapping of microbe-phenotype relationships in parental mouse strains and in mice with hybrid microbiotas identified the bacterial family Lachnospiraceae as a correlate for protection from disease. Using directed microbial culture techniques, we discovered Clostridium immunis, a previously unknown bacterial species from this family, that-when administered to colitis-prone mice-protected them against colitis-associated death. To demonstrate the generalizability of our approach, we used it to identify several commensal organisms that induce intestinal expression of an antimicrobial peptide. Thus, we have used microbe-phenotype triangulation to move beyond the standard correlative microbiome study and identify causal microbes for two completely distinct phenotypes. Identification of disease-modulating commensals by microbe-phenotype triangulation may be more broadly applicable to human microbiome studies.
In this issue of Cell, Desai et al. compare how dietary fiber affects the gut microbiota and susceptibility to disease. They find that a fiber-free diet promotes mucus-degrading bacteria and susceptibility to Citrobacter rodentium infection.
Microbial colonization of mucosal tissues during infancy plays an instrumental role in the development and education of the host mammalian immune system. These early-life events can have long-standing consequences: facilitating tolerance to environmental exposures or contributing to the development of disease in later life, including inflammatory bowel disease, allergy, and asthma. Recent studies have begun to define a critical period during early development in which disruption of optimal host-commensal interactions can lead to persistent and in some cases irreversible defects in the development and training of specific immune subsets. Here, we discuss the role of early-life education of the immune system during this "window of opportunity," when microbial colonization has a potentially critical impact on human health and disease.
The intestine is densely populated by anaerobic commensal bacteria. These microorganisms shape immune system development, but understanding of host-commensal interactions is hampered by a lack of tools for studying the anaerobic intestinal environment. We applied metabolic oligosaccharide engineering and bioorthogonal click chemistry to label various commensal anaerobes, including Bacteroides fragilis, a common and immunologically important commensal. We studied the dissemination of B. fragilis after acute peritonitis and characterized the interactions of the intact microbe and its polysaccharide components in myeloid and B cell lineages. We were able to assess the distribution and colonization of labeled B. fragilis along the intestine, as well as niche competition after coadministration of multiple species of the microbiota. We also fluorescently labeled nine additional commensals (eight anaerobic and one microaerophilic) from three phyla common in the gut--Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria--as well as one aerobic pathogen (Staphylococcus aureus). This strategy permits visualization of the anaerobic microbial niche by various methods, including intravital two-photon microscopy and non-invasive whole-body imaging, and can be used to study microbial colonization and host-microbe interactions in real time.
Coevolution of beneficial microorganisms with the mammalian intestine fundamentally shapes mammalian physiology. Here, we report that the intestinal microbe Bacteroides fragilis modifies the homeostasis of host invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells by supplementing the host's endogenous lipid antigen milieu with unique inhibitory sphingolipids. The process occurs early in life and effectively impedes iNKT cell proliferation during neonatal development. Consequently, total colonic iNKT cell numbers are restricted into adulthood, and hosts are protected against experimental iNKT cell-mediated, oxazolone-induced colitis. In studies with neonatal mice lacking access to bacterial sphingolipids, we found that treatment with B. fragilis glycosphingolipids-exemplified by an isolated peak (MW = 717.6) called GSL-Bf717-reduces colonic iNKT cell numbers and confers protection against oxazolone-induced colitis in adulthood. Our results suggest that the distinctive inhibitory capacity of GSL-Bf717 and similar molecules may prove useful in the treatment of autoimmune and allergic disorders in which iNKT cell activation is destructive.
Polysaccharide A (PSA), the archetypical immunomodulatory molecule of the gut commensal Bacteroides fragilis, induces regulatory T cells to secrete the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). The cellular mediators of PSA's immunomodulatory properties are incompletely understood. In a mouse model of colitis, we find that PSA requires both innate and adaptive immune mechanisms to generate protection. Plasmacytoid DCs (PDCs) exposed to PSA do not produce proinflammatory cytokines, but instead they specifically stimulate IL-10 secretion by CD4+ T cells and efficiently mediate PSA-afforded immunoprotection. PSA induces and preferentially ligates Toll-like receptor 2 on PDCs but not on conventional DCs. Compared with other TLR2 ligands, PSA is better at enhancing PDC expression of costimulatory molecules required for protection against colitis. PDCs can thus orchestrate the beneficial immunoregulatory interaction of commensal microbial molecules, such as PSA, through both innate and adaptive immune mechanisms.
The mammalian immune system constitutively senses vast quantities of commensal bacteria and their products through pattern recognition receptors, yet excessive immune reactivity is prevented under homeostasis. The intestinal microbiome can influence host susceptibility to extra-intestinal autoimmune disorders. Here we report that polysaccharide A (PSA), a symbiosis factor for the human intestinal commensal Bacteroides fragilis, protects against central nervous system demyelination and inflammation during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis, through Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). TLR2 mediates tissue-specific expansion of a critical regulatory CD39(+) CD4 T-cell subset by PSA. Ablation of CD39 signalling abrogates PSA control of EAE manifestations and inflammatory cytokine responses. Further, CD39 confers immune-regulatory phenotypes to total CD4 T cells and Foxp3(+) CD4 Tregs. Importantly, CD39-deficient CD4 T cells show an enhanced capability to drive EAE progression. Our results demonstrate the therapeutic potential and underlying mechanism by which an intestinal symbiont product modulates CNS-targeted demyelination.
The past decade has witnessed an explosion in studies--both clinical and basic science--examining the relationship between the microbiota and human health, and it is now clear that the effects of commensal organisms are much broader than previously believed. Among the microbiota's major contributions to host physiology is regulation of the development and maintenance of the immune system. There are now a handful of examples of intestinal commensal bacteria with defined immunomodulatory properties, but our mechanistic understanding of how microbes influence the immune system is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, several themes have emerged that provide a framework for appreciating microbe-induced immunoregulation. In this Review, we discuss the current state of knowledge regarding the role of the intestinal microbiota in immunologic development, highlighting mechanistic principles that can guide future work.
Sex bias in susceptibility to autoimmune diseases is evident but poorly characterized. Yurkovetskiy et al. (2013) report that host testosterone mediates changes in the microbiome to confer protection to adult male NOD mice from type 1 diabetes.
All animals coexist with myriad commensal microorganisms in a symbiotic relationship that plays a key role in health and disease. Continuous commensal-host interactions profoundly affect the development and regulation of the host's immune system. The complex interaction of the commensal microbiota with the immune system is a topic of substantial interest. An understanding of these interactions and the mechanisms through which commensal microbes actively shape host immunity may yield new insights into the pathogenesis of many immune-mediated diseases and lead to new prophylactic and therapeutic interventions. This review examines recent advances in this field and their potential implications not just for the colonized tissues but also for the entire immune system.
Bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) are ubiquitous molecules that are prominent components of the outer membranes of most gram-negative bacteria. Genetic and structural characterizations of Francisella LPS have revealed substantial differences when compared to more commonly studied LPSs of the Enterobacteriaceae. This review discusses both the general characteristics and the unusual features of Francisella LPS.
Exposure to microbes during early childhood is associated with protection from immune-mediated diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma. Here, we show that in germ-free (GF) mice, invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells accumulate in the colonic lamina propria and lung, resulting in increased morbidity in models of IBD and allergic asthma as compared with that of specific pathogen-free mice. This was associated with increased intestinal and pulmonary expression of the chemokine ligand CXCL16, which was associated with increased mucosal iNKT cells. Colonization of neonatal-but not adult-GF mice with a conventional microbiota protected the animals from mucosal iNKT accumulation and related pathology. These results indicate that age-sensitive contact with commensal microbes is critical for establishing mucosal iNKT cell tolerance to later environmental exposures.