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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gut microbiota and lipopolysaccharide content of the diet influence development of regulatory T cells: studies in germ-free mice

Tomas Hrncir1, Renata Stepankova1, Hana Kozakova1, Tomas Hudcovic1 and Helena Tlaskalova-Hogenova12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Immunology and Gnotobiology, Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague and Novy Hradek, Czech Republic

2 Institute of Immunology and Microbiology, 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

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BMC Immunology 2008, 9:65  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-9-65

Published: 6 November 2008

Abstract

Background

Mammals are essentially born germ-free but the epithelial surfaces are promptly colonized by astounding numbers of bacteria soon after birth. The most extensive microbial community is harbored by the distal intestine. The gut microbiota outnumber ~10 times the total number of our somatic and germ cells. The host-microbiota relationship has evolved to become mutually beneficial. Studies in germ-free mice have shown that gut microbiota play a crucial role in the development of the immune system. The principal aim of the present study was to elucidate whether the presence of gut microbiota and the quality of a sterile diet containing various amounts of bacterial contaminants, measured by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) content, can influence maturation of the immune system in gnotobiotic mice.

Results

We have found that the presence of gut microbiota and to a lesser extent also the LPS-rich sterile diet drive the expansion of B and T cells in Peyer's patches and mesenteric lymph nodes. The most prominent was the expansion of CD4+ T cells including Foxp3-expressing T cells in mesenteric lymph nodes. Further, we have observed that both the presence of gut microbiota and the LPS-rich sterile diet influence in vitro cytokine profile of spleen cells. Both gut microbiota and LPS-rich diet increase the production of interleukin-12 and decrease the production of interleukin-4. In addition, the presence of gut microbiota increases the production of interleukin-10 and interferon-γ.

Conclusion

Our data clearly show that not only live gut microbiota but also microbial components (LPS) contained in sterile diet stimulate the development, expansion and function of the immune system. Finally, we would like to emphasize that the composition of diet should be regularly tested especially in all gnotobiotic models as the LPS content and other microbial components present in the diet may significantly alter the outcome of experiments.