The immune-modulating properties of certain bifidobacterial strains, such as Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum 35624 (B. longum 35624), have been well described, although the strain-specific molecular characteristics associated with such immune-regulatory activity are not well defined. It has previously been demonstrated that B. longum 35624 produces a cell surface exopolysaccharide (sEPS), and in this study, we investigated the role played by this exopolysaccharide in influencing the host immune response. B. longum 35624 induced relatively low levels of cytokine secretion from human dendritic cells, whereas an isogenic exopolysaccharide-negative mutant derivative (termed sEPSneg) induced vastly more cytokines, including interleukin-17 (IL-17), and this response was reversed when exopolysaccharide production was restored in sEPSneg by genetic complementation. Administration of B. longum 35624 to mice of the T cell transfer colitis model prevented disease symptoms, whereas sEPSneg did not protect against the development of colitis, with associated enhanced recruitment of IL-17+ lymphocytes to the gut. Moreover, intranasal administration of sEPSneg also resulted in enhanced recruitment of IL-17+ lymphocytes to the murine lung. These data demonstrate that the particular exopolysaccharide produced by B. longum 35624 plays an essential role in dampening proinflammatory host responses to the strain and that loss of exopolysaccharide production results in the induction of local TH17 responses.
Importance: Particular gut commensals, such as B. longum 35624, are known to contribute positively to the development of mucosal immune cells, resulting in protection from inflammatory diseases. However, the molecular basis and mechanisms for these commensal-host interactions are poorly described. In this report, an exopolysaccharide was shown to be decisive in influencing the immune response to the bacterium. We generated an isogenic mutant unable to produce exopolysaccharide and observed that this mutation caused a dramatic change in the response of human immune cells in vitro In addition, the use of mouse models confirmed that lack of exopolysaccharide production induces inflammatory responses to the bacterium. These results implicate the surface-associated exopolysaccharide of the B. longum 35624 cell envelope in the prevention of aberrant inflammatory responses.
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