Based on animal models and human studies, there is now strong suspicion that host/microbiota mutualism in the context of gut microbial dysbiosis could influence immunity and multiple sclerosis (MS) evolution. Our goal was to seek evidence of deregulated microbiota-induced systemic immune responses in patients with MS.
We investigated gut and systemic commensal-specific antibody responses in healthy controls (n = 32), patients with relapsing-remitting MS (n = 30), and individuals with clinically isolated syndromes (CISs) (n = 15). Gut microbiota composition and diversity were compared between controls and patients by analysis of 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) sequencing. Autologous microbiota and cultivable bacterial strains were used in bacterial flow cytometry assays to quantify autologous serum IgG and secretory IgA responses to microbiota. IgG-bound bacteria were sorted by flow cytometry and identified using 16S rRNA sequencing.
We show that commensal-specific gut IgA responses are drastically reduced in patients with severe MS, disease severity being correlated with the IgA-coated fecal microbiota fraction (r = –0.647, p < 0.0001). At the same time, IgA-unbound bacteria elicit qualitatively broad and quantitatively increased serum IgG responses in patients with MS and CIS compared with controls (4.1% and 2.5% vs 1.9%, respectively, p < 0.001).
Gut and systemic microbiota/immune homeostasis are perturbed in MS. Our results argue that defective IgA responses in MS are linked to a breakdown of systemic tolerance to gut microbiota leading to an enhanced triggering of systemic IgG immunity against gut commensals occurring early in MS.