Immunology

Gut microbes boost antibodies

    Intestinal bacteria release metabolic by-products that support antibody-producing immune cells.

    Gut microbes produce short-chain fatty acids as they digest dietary fibre. Chang Kim and his colleagues at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, treated cultured B cells with the fatty acids and found that this enhanced the expression of genes that help the cells to develop into antibody-producing factories known as plasma B cells. The treatment also increased the cells' metabolism, helping to support the energy-consuming process of making antibodies.

    Mice fed a low-fibre diet were more susceptible than other animals to infection by the pathogen Citrobacter rodentium and had weaker immune responses. Treating the mice with short-chain fatty acids or dietary fibre increased antibody production and reversed this immune deficiency.

    Cell Host Microbe http://doi.org/bm82 (2016)

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    Gut microbes boost antibodies. Nature 536, 9 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/536009b

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