Despite growing evidence for a causal role of environmental factors in autoimmune diseases including the rise in disease frequencies over the past several decades we lack an understanding of how particular environmental exposures modify disease risk. In addition, many autoimmune diseases display sex-biased incidence, with females being disproportionately affected but the mechanisms underlying this sex bias remain elusive. Emerging evidence suggests that both host metabolism and immune function is crucially regulated by the intestinal microbiome. Recently, we showed that in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), the gut commensal microbial community strongly impacts the pronounced sex bias in T1D risk by controlling serum testosterone and metabolic phenotypes (1). Here we present new data in the NOD model that explores the correlations between microbial phylogeny, testosterone levels, and metabolic phenotypes, and discuss the future of microbiome-centered analysis and microbe-based therapeutic approaches in autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: immune response to microbiome; metabolome; mouse models of autoimmunity; sex bias in disease; steroid hormones; type 1 diabetes.