Gut commensal segmented filamentous bacteria fine-tune t follicular regulatory cells to modify the severity of systemic autoimmune arthritis

Nicholas A. Bates, Anna Li, Tingting Fan, Madeline P. Cutcliffe, Caitlyn B. Dagenet, Kiah C. Sleiman, Heqing Ma, Shekha Tahsin, Candace S. Garrett, Jesse Altemus, Hsin Jung Joyce Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Autoantibodies play a major pathogenic role in rheumatoid arthritis. T follicular helper (Tfh) cells promote germinal center B cell and Ab responses. Excessive Tfh cell responses lead to autoimmunity, and therefore, counterregulation is crucial. T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells, mainly differentiated from T regulatory cells, can negatively regulate Tfh and germinal center B cells. Dysbiosis is involved in rheumatoid arthritis's pathogenesis. We previously demonstrated that the gut microbiota, segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB), promote autoimmune arthritis by inducing Tfh cells. However, little is known regarding whether gut microbiota influence systemic (nongut) Tfr cells, impacting gut-distal autoimmunity. In this study, using SFB in autoimmune arthritic K/BxN mice, we demonstrated that SFB-induced arthritis is linked to the reduction of Tfr cells' CTLA-4, the key regulatory molecule of Tfr cells. This SFB-mediated CTLA-4 reduction is associated with increased Tfr glycolytic activity, and glycolytic inhibition increases Tfr cells' CTLA-4 levels and reduces arthritis. The surface expression of CTLA-4 is tied to TCR signaling strength, and we discovered that SFB-reduced CTLA-4 is associated with a reduction of Nur77, an indicator of TCR signaling strength. Nur77 is known for repressing glycolytic activity. Using a loss-of-function study, we demonstrated that Nur77+/- haplodeficiency increases glycolysis and reduces CTLA-4 on Tfr cells, which is associated with increased arthritis and anti-glucose-6- phosphate isomerase titers. Tfr-specific deletion (KRN.Foxp3CreBcl-6fl/fl) in autoimmune condition reveals that Tfr cells repress arthritis, Tfh cells, and autoantibody responses and that SFB can mitigate this repression. Overall, these findings demonstrated that gut microbiota distally impact systemic autoimmunity by fine-tuning Tfr cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-952
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Gut commensal segmented filamentous bacteria fine-tune t follicular regulatory cells to modify the severity of systemic autoimmune arthritis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this