Clostridium bolteae is elevated in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder in India and shares sequence similarity with AQP4

Objective

To understand the role of gut microbiome in influencing the pathogenesis of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSDs) among patients of south Indian origin.

Methods

In this case-control study, stool and blood samples were collected from 39 patients with NMOSD, including 17 with aquaporin 4 IgG antibodies (AQP4+) and 36 matched controls. 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequencing was used to investigate the gut microbiome. Peripheral CD4+ T cells were sorted in 12 healthy controls, and in 12 patients with AQP4+ NMOSD, RNA was extracted and immune gene expression was analyzed using the NanoString nCounter human immunology kit code set.

Results

Microbiota community structure (beta diversity) differed between patients with AQP4+ NMOSD and healthy controls (p < 0.001, pairwise PERMANOVA test). Linear discriminatory analysis effect size identified several members of the microbiota that were altered in patients with NMOSD, including an increase in Clostridium bolteae (effect size 4.23, p 0.00007). C bolteae was significantly more prevalent (p = 0.02) among patients with AQP4-IgG+ NMOSD (n = 8/17 subjects) compared with seronegative patients (n = 3/22) and was absent among healthy stool samples. C bolteae has a highly conserved glycerol uptake facilitator and related aquaporin protein (p59-71) that shares sequence homology with AQP4 peptide (p92-104), positioned within an immunodominant (AQP4 specific) T-cell epitope (p91-110). Presence of C bolteae correlated with expression of inflammatory genes associated with both innate and adaptive immunities and particularly involved in plasma cell differentiation, B cell chemotaxis, and Th17 activation.

Conclusion

Our study described elevated levels of C bolteae associated with AQP4+ NMOSD among Indian patients. It is possible that this organism may be causally related to the immunopathogenesis of this disease in susceptible individuals.

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