Effector T cell responses to pathogenic bacteria are crucial for protection from pathogens, but when directed toward non-pathogens, may underlie inappropriate responses driving disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Conversely, Foxp3+ regulatory T cell (Treg) responses to commensals enforce tolerance to prevent immune-mediated pathology such as IBD. The relative priority and context of gut bacterial interaction with the immune system remain significant gaps in our understanding. We observed that dysbiosis induces the formation of colonic goblet cell associated antigen passages (GAPs), providing an alternative route by which the immune system encounters gut resident bacteria. Further, we observed that gut resident bacteria taxa generally considered as tolerance-promoting can induce effector responses when encountered via colonic GAPs. Alternatively, we have found that antigen-specific peripheral (pTregs) largely recognize mucosal associated (MA) murine Helicobacter spp in vitro and in vivo, and that encounter of Helicobacter spp occurs continuously and is independent of GAPs. These data indicate that bacteria believed to be pathobionts can be potent inducers of pTregs during homeostasis, and in contrast, taxa believed to be tolerance inducing, Clostridia, are largely not encountered by the immune system in the steady state, but are encountered via colonic GAPs resulting in effector T cell responses. We hypothesize that the location and route of encounter of gut bacteria are important determinants of the outcome of immune responses and that the MA bacteria can play an important role in controlling the interactions and responses to gut resident bacteria encountered via colonic GAPs. In this proposal we will evaluate this hypothesis by: 1) defining the commensal antigens delivered via mucosal association (MA) and GAPs 2) defining the dendritic cell (DC) subsets involved in acquisition and presentation of mucosal associated and GAP delivered commensal antigens and 3) defining the effects of Helicobacter on the mucosal immune system and responses to GAP delivered antigens. Studies outlined in this proposal will fill the gaps in our understanding by identifying how specific bacterial taxa are encountered by the immune system and the subsequent immune responses. This knowledge can be leveraged to guide manipulations of the gut microbiota and the immune system to ?reset? chronic inflammatory responses and return to homeostasis.

Public Health Relevance

The intestinal immune system must mount effector responses to potential pathogens and mount tolerogenic responses to gut commensal bacteria. This study investigates how the route of encounter of gut resident bacteria influences immune outcomes. Findings from work performed in this proposal will significantly add to our understanding of how immune responses are regulated to promote health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Rothermel, Annette L
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Washington University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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