0630 GMT February 18, 2020
Increases in the levels of segmented filamentous bacteria can trigger changes in the lymphoid tissue of the mouse gut that result in the production of antibodies that attack components of the cell nucleus. This type of damage is a hallmark of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis, where organs throughout the body are damaged by wayward immune responses, EurekAlert said.
"Our results demonstrate how gut health in young animals may be linked to autoimmune disease in older animals," said Dirk Elewaut, professor at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium and VIB Inflammation Research Center, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, who is one of the lead authors of the study. "The microbiome of the young mouse impacts a loss of tolerance of the secondary immune system against proteins in the nucleus of the cell. The attack of certain proteins by the body's own immune system can subsequently lead to tissue damage and disease."
The researchers used mice in which secondary lymphoid organs were lacking for their studies. Secondary lymphoid organs include lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and other structures where lymphocytes, the white blood cells that play essential roles in the body's immune system, are activated. The mice were produced by interfering with lymphotoxin and Hox11, two essential proteins involved in the autoimmune response of animals. The scientists showed that approximately one quarter of mice modified in this way spontaneously developed antibodies that would attack components of the cell nucleus. This increase in undesired and self-inflicted immune reactions was influenced by the presence of segmented filamentous bacteria in the gut of younger mice. Segmented filamentous bacteria are clostridia-related microorganisms found in the gut of many animals including mice, rats and humans.