ReportsMucosal Immunology

Gene-microbiota interactions contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1116-1120
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9948

Genes and microbes converge in colitis

Both host genetics and intestinal microbes probably contribute to a person's overall susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The human gut microbe Bacteroides fragilis produces immunomodulatory molecules that it releases via outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). These molecules can protect mice from experimentally induced colitis. Chu et al. now find that OMV-mediated protection from colitis requires Atg16l1 and Nod2 genes whose human orthologs are associated with an increased risk for developing IBD. OMVs trigger an ATG16L1 and NOD2–dependent noncanonical autophagy pathway in dendritic cells (DCs). OMV-primed DCs, in turn, induce regulatory T cells in the intestine that protect against colitis.

Science, this issue p. 1116


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with risk variants in the human genome and dysbiosis of the gut microbiome, though unifying principles for these findings remain largely undescribed. The human commensal Bacteroides fragilis delivers immunomodulatory molecules to immune cells via secretion of outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). We reveal that OMVs require IBD-associated genes, ATG16L1 and NOD2, to activate a noncanonical autophagy pathway during protection from colitis. ATG16L1-deficient dendritic cells do not induce regulatory T cells (Tregs) to suppress mucosal inflammation. Immune cells from human subjects with a major risk variant in ATG16L1 are defective in Treg responses to OMVs. We propose that polymorphisms in susceptibility genes promote disease through defects in “sensing” protective signals from the microbiome, defining a potentially critical gene-environment etiology for IBD.

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