Host Genetics But Not Commensal Microbiota Determines the Initial Development of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in BXD2 Mice

Academic Article


  • Objective: To determine the extent to which the gut microbiome influences systemic autoimmunity in a mouse model of lupus. Methods: We generated germ-free (GF) lupus-prone BXD2 mice, which under normal conditions develop spontaneous germinal centers (GCs) and high titers of serum autoantibodies. GF status was confirmed by gut bacterial culture. The autoimmune phenotypes of 6- and 12-month-old gnotobiotic GF BXD2 mice and specific pathogen–free (SPF) BXD2 mice were compared. Serum levels of autoantibodies were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Histologic sections of the mouse kidney and joints were evaluated. Flow cytometry was used to analyze GCs and age-associated B cells. CD4+ T cells were analyzed for PD-1+ICOS+ activated T cells, T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells (Foxp3+CD25+ PD-1+CXCR5+), and PD-1+ICOS+ T cells expressing interleukin-17A (IL-17A) or interferon-γ (IFNγ) after stimulation with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)/ionomycin. Results: In 6-month-old mice, GF status did not affect splenomegaly, GC B cells, age-associated B cells, or serum autoantibody levels, except for IgG antihistone. GF BXD2 mice exhibited a significantly higher percentage of Tfr cells compared to their SPF counterparts (P < 0.05). At 12 months of age, however, GF BXD2 mice had significantly diminished IgG autoantibody levels and a lower percentage of GC B cells and age-associated B cells (P < 0.05). Following stimulation with PMA/ionomycin, PD-1+ICOS+ CD4+ T cells expressed significantly lower IL-17A, but not IFNγ, levels in GF BXD2 mice compared to SPF BXD2 mice (P < 0.01). SPF BXD2 mice and GF BXD2 mice developed equivalent renal and joint disease with no significant differences in severity. Conclusion: Our results suggest a model in which genetics plays a dominant role in determining the initial development of autoimmunity. In contrast, gut microbiomes may regulate the persistence of certain aspects of systemic autoimmunity.
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    Author List

  • Hong H; Alduraibi F; Ponder D; Duck WL; Morrow CD; Foote JB; Schoeb TR; Fatima H; Elson CO; Hsu HC
  • Start Page

  • 634
  • End Page

  • 640
  • Volume

  • 74
  • Issue

  • 4