Aberrant Gut Microbiome Contributes to Intestinal Oxidative Stress, Barrier Dysfunction, Inflammation and Systemic Autoimmune Responses in MRL/lpr Mice

Hui Wang, Gangduo Wang, Nivedita Banerjee, Yuejin Liang, Xiaotang Du, Paul J. Boor, Kristi L. Hoffman, M. Firoze Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Microbiome composition and function have been implicated as contributing factors in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases (ADs), including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). Furthermore, dysbiosis of gut microbiome is associated with impaired barrier function and mucosal immune dysregulation. However, mechanisms by which gut microbiome contributes to the ADs and whether antioxidant treatment can restore gut homeostasis and ameliorate the disease outcome are not known. This study was, therefore, focused on examining the involvement of gut microbiome and host responses in the pathogenesis of SLE using unique female mouse models (C57BL/6, MRL+/+ and MRL/lpr) of 6 and 18 weeks with varying degrees of disease progression. Fecal microbiome diversity and composition, gut oxidative stress (OS), barrier function and inflammation, as well as systemic autoimmunity were determined. Interestingly, each mouse strain had distinct bacterial community as revealed by β-diversity. A lower Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in 6-week-old MRL/lpr mice was observed, evidenced by decrease in Peptostreptococcaceae under Firmicutes phylum along with enrichment of Rikenellaceae under Bacteroidetes phylum. Additionally, we observed increases in colonic OS [4-hydroxynonenal (HNE)-adducts and HNE-specific immune complexes], permeability changes (lower tight junction protein ZO-2; increased fecal albumin and IgA levels) and inflammatory responses (increased phos-NF-κB, IL-6 and IgG levels) in 18-week-old MRL/lpr mice. These changes were associated with markedly elevated AD markers (antinuclear and anti-smooth muscle antibodies) along with hepatic portal inflammation and severe glomerulonephritis. Notably, antioxidant N-acetylcysteine treatment influenced the microbial composition (decreased Rikenellaceae; increased Akkeransiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Muribaculaceae) and attenuated the systemic autoimmunity in MRL/lpr mice. Our data thus show that gut microbiome dysbiosis is associated with increased colonic OS, barrier dysfunction, inflammatory responses and systemic autoimmunity markers. These findings apart from delineating a role for gut microbiome dysbiosis, also support the contribution of gut OS, permeability changes and inflammatory responses in the pathogenesis of ADs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number651191
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Apr 12 2021


  • autoimmunity
  • inflammation
  • microbiome
  • oxidative stress
  • permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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