Interactions between host genetics and gut microbiota determine susceptibility to CNS autoimmunity

Theresa L. Montgomery, Axel Künstner, Josephine J. Kennedy, Qian Fang, Lori Asarian, Rachel Culp-Hill, Angelo D’Alessandro, Cory Teuscher, Hauke Busch, Dimitry N. Krementsov*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. The etiology of MS is multifactorial, with disease risk determined by genetics and environmental factors. An emerging risk factor for immune-mediated diseases is an imbalance in the gut microbiome. However, the identity of gut microbes associated with disease risk, their mechanisms of action, and the interactions with host genetics remain obscure. To address these questions, we utilized the principal autoimmune model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), together with a genetically diverse mouse model representing 29 unique host genotypes, interrogated by microbiome sequencing and targeted microbiome manipulation. We identified specific gut bacteria and their metabolic functions associated with EAE susceptibility, implicating short-chain fatty acid metabolism as a key element conserved across multiple host genotypes. In parallel, we used a reductionist approach focused on two of the most disparate phenotypes identified in our screen. Manipulation of the gut microbiome by transplantation and cohousing demonstrated that transfer of these microbiomes into genetically identical hosts was sufficient to modulate EAE susceptibility and systemic metabolite profiles. Parallel bioinformatic approaches identified Lactobacillus reuteri as a commensal species unexpectedly associated with exacerbation of EAE in a genetically susceptible host, which was functionally confirmed by bacterial isolation and commensal colonization studies. These results reveal complex interactions between host genetics and gut microbiota modulating susceptibility to CNS autoimmunity, providing insights into microbiome-directed strategies aimed at lowering the risk for autoimmune disease and underscoring the need to consider host genetics and baseline gut microbiome composition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
Pages (from-to)27516-27527
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 03.11.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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