To maintain health, the immune system must maintain a delicate balance between eliminating invading pathogens and avoiding immune disorders such as autoimmunity and allergies. The gut microbiota provide essential health benefits to the host, particularly by regulating immune homeostasis. Dysbiosis, an alteration and imbalance of the gut microbiota, is associated with the development of several autoimmune diseases in both mice and humans. In this review, we discuss recent advances in understanding how certain factors, such as age and gender, affect the gut microbiota, which in turn can influence the development of autoimmune diseases. The age factor in microbiota-dependent immune disorders indicates a window of opportunity for future diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. We also discuss unique commensal bacteria with strong immunomodulatory activity. Finally, we provide an overview of the potential molecular mechanisms whereby gut microbiota induce autoimmunity, as well as the evidence that gut microbiota trigger extraintestinal diseases by inducing the migration of gut-derived immune cells. Elucidating the interaction of gut microbiota and the host immune system will help us understand the pathogenesis of immune disorders, and provide us with new foundations to develop novel immuno- or microbe-targeted therapies.
Keywords: age effect; autoimmunity; innate and adaptive immunity; microbiota.
© 2017 New York Academy of Sciences.