Bacterial translocation (BTL) drives pathogenesis and complications of cirrhosis. Farnesoid X-activated receptor (FXR) is a key transcription regulator in hepatic and intestinal bile metabolism. We studied potential intestinal FXR dysfunction in a rat model of cholestatic liver injury and evaluated effects of obeticholic acid (INT-747), an FXR agonist, on gut permeability, inflammation, and BTL. Rats were gavaged with INT-747 or vehicle during 10 days after bile-duct ligation and then were assessed for changes in gut permeability, BTL, and tight-junction protein expression, immune cell recruitment, and cytokine expression in ileum, mesenteric lymph nodes, and spleen. Auxiliary in vitro BTL-mimicking experiments were performed with Transwell supports. Vehicle-treated bile duct-ligated rats exhibited decreased FXR pathway expression in both jejunum and ileum, in association with increased gut permeability through increased claudin-2 expression and related to local and systemic recruitment of natural killer cells resulting in increased interferon-γ expression and BTL. After INT-747 treatment, natural killer cells and interferon-γ expression markedly decreased, in association with normalized permeability selectively in ileum (up-regulated claudin-1 and occludin) and a significant reduction in BTL. In vitro, interferon-γ induced increased Escherichia coli translocation, which remained unaffected by INT-747. In experimental cholestasis, FXR agonism improved ileal barrier function by attenuating intestinal inflammation, leading to reduced BTL and thus demonstrating a crucial protective role for FXR in the gut-liver axis.
Copyright © 2015 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.