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mSystems. 2018 Nov 6;3(6). pii: e00083-18. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00083-18. eCollection 2018 Nov-Dec.

Multiple Sclerosis-Associated Changes in the Composition and Immune Functions of Spore-Forming Bacteria.

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UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.
Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center of City University New York, New York, New York, USA.
University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA.
Institute for Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.
Graduate Program for Biomedical Informatics, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system characterized by adaptive and innate immune system dysregulation. Recent work has revealed moderate alteration of gut microbial communities in subjects with MS and in experimental, induced models. However, a mechanistic understanding linking the observed changes in the microbiota and the presence of the disease is still missing. Chloroform-resistant, spore-forming bacteria, which primarily belong to the classes Bacilli and Clostridia in the phylum Firmicutes, have been shown to exhibit immunomodulatory properties in vitro and in vivo, but they have not yet been characterized in the context of human disease. This study addresses the community composition and immune function of this bacterial fraction in MS. We identify MS-associated spore-forming taxa (primarily in the class Clostridia) and show that their presence correlates with impaired differentiation of IL-10-secreting, regulatory T lymphocytes in vitro. Colonization of antibiotic-treated mice with spore-forming bacteria allowed us to identify some bacterial taxa favoring IL-10+ lymphocyte differentiation and others inducing differentiation of proinflammatory, IFN-γ+ T lymphocytes. However, when fed into antibiotic-treated mice, both MS and control-derived spore-forming bacteria were able to induce similar IL-10-expressing Treg immunoregulatory responses, thus ameliorating symptoms of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). Our analysis also identified Akkermansia muciniphila as a key organism that may interact either directly or indirectly with spore-forming bacteria to exacerbate the inflammatory effects of MS-associated gut microbiota. Thus, changes in the spore-forming fraction may influence T lymphocyte-mediated inflammation in MS. This experimental approach of isolating a subset of microbiota based on its functional characteristics may be useful to investigate other microbial fractions at greater depth. IMPORTANCE To address the impact of microbiome on disease development, it is essential to go beyond a descriptive study and evaluate the physiological importance of microbiome changes. Our study integrates computational analysis with in vitro and in vivo exploration of inflammatory properties of spore-forming microbial communities, revealing novel functional correlations. We specifically show that while small differences exist between the microbiomes of MS patients and healthy subjects, these differences are exacerbated in the chloroform-resistant fraction. We further demonstrate that, when purified from MS patients, this fraction is correlated with impaired immunomodulatory responses in vitro.


immune mechanisms; multiple sclerosis; spore-forming bacteria

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