Complex responses to inflammatory oxidants by the probiotic bacteriumLactobacillus reuteri

Academic Article



    Inflammatory diseases of the gut are associated with increased intestinal oxygen concentrations and high levels of inflammatory oxidants, including hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ) and hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which are antimicrobial compounds produced by the innate immune system. This contributes to dysbiotic changes in the gut microbiome, including increased populations of pro-inflammatory enterobacteria ( Escherichia coli and related species) and decreased levels of health-associated anaerobic Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. The pathways for H 2 O 2 and HOCl resistance in E. coli have been well-studied, but little is known about how commensal and probiotic bacteria respond to inflammatory oxidants. In this work, we have characterized the transcriptomic response of the anti-inflammatory, gut-colonizing Gram-positive probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri to both H 2 O 2 and HOCl. L. reuteri mounts distinct responses to each of these stressors, and both gene expression and survival were strongly affected by the presence or absence of oxygen. Oxidative stress response in L. reuteri required several factors not found in enterobacteria, including the small heat shock protein Lo18, polyphosphate kinase 2, and RsiR, an L. reuteri -specific regulator of anti-inflammatory mechanisms. These results raise the intriguing possibility of developing treatments for inflammatory gut diseases that could sensitize pro-inflammatory enterobacteria to killing by the immune system while sparing anti-inflammatory, health-associated species.


    It is becoming increasingly clear that effective treatment of inflammatory gut diseases will require modulation of the gut microbiota. Preventing pro-inflammatory bacteria from blooming while also preserving anti-inflammatory and commensal species is a considerable challenge, but our results suggest that it may be possible to take advantage of differences in the way different species of gut bacteria resist inflammatory oxidants to accomplish this goal.
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  • Thakur PB; Long A; Nelson B; Kumar R; Rosenberg A; Gray M