Gut bacterium Faecalibacterium prausnitzii activates a newly identified set of human IL-10-producing Treg cells (CD4CD8αα lymphocytes), revealing a mechanism by which commensal microbes contribute to host immunity.
How the microbiota affects health and disease is a crucial question. In mice, gut Clostridium bacteria are potent inducers of colonic interleukin (IL)-10-producing Foxp3 regulatory T cells (Treg), which play key roles in the prevention of colitis and in systemic immunity. In humans, although gut microbiota dysbiosis is associated with immune disorders, the underlying mechanism remains unknown. In contrast with mice, the contribution of Foxp3 Treg in colitis prevention has been questioned, suggesting that other compensatory regulatory cells or mechanisms may exist. Here we addressed the regulatory role of the CD4CD8 T cells whose presence had been reported in the intestinal mucosa and blood. Using colonic lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL) and peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) from healthy individuals, and those with colon cancer and irritable bowel disease (IBD), we demonstrated that CD4CD8αα (DP8α) T lymphocytes expressed most of the regulatory markers and functions of Foxp3 Treg and secreted IL-10. Strikingly, DP8α LPL and PBL exhibited a highly skewed repertoire toward the recognition of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a major Clostridium species of the human gut microbiota, which is decreased in patients with IBD. Furthermore, the frequencies of DP8α PBL and colonic LPL were lower in patients with IBD than in healthy donors and in the healthy mucosa of patients with colon cancer, respectively. Moreover, PBL and LPL from most patients with active IBD failed to respond to F. prausnitzii in contrast to PBL and LPL from patients in remission and/or healthy donors. These data (i) uncover a Clostridium-specific IL-10-secreting Treg subset present in the human colonic LP and blood, (ii) identify F. prausnitzii as a major inducer of these Treg, (iii) argue that these cells contribute to the control or prevention of colitis, opening new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for IBD, and (iv) provide new tools to address the systemic impact of both these Treg and the intestinal microbiota on the human immune homeostasis.
It has become evident that bacteria in our gut affect health and disease, but less is known about how they do this. Recent studies in mice showed that gut Clostridium bacteria and their metabolites can activate regulatory T cells (Treg) that in turn mediate tolerance to signals that would ordinarily cause inflammation. In this study we identify a subset of human T lymphocytes, designated CD4CD8αα T cells that are present in the surface lining of the colon and in the blood. We demonstrate Treg activity and show these cells to be activated by microbiota; we identify F. prausnitzii, a core Clostridium strain of the human gut microbiota, as a major inducer of these Treg cells. Interestingly, there are fewer F. prausnitzii in individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and accordingly the CD4CD8αα T cells are decreased in the blood and gut of patients with IBD. We argue that CD4CD8αα colonic Treg probably help control or prevent IBD. These data open the road to new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for the management of IBD and provide new tools to address the impact of the intestinal microbiota on the human immune system.