Gut Microbiota in Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and a Mouse Model of Lupus

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2018 Jan 31;84(4):e02288-17. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02288-17. Print 2018 Feb 15.


Gut microbiota dysbiosis has been observed in a number of autoimmune diseases. However, the role of the gut microbiota in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a prototypical autoimmune disease characterized by persistent inflammation in multiple organs of the body, remains elusive. Here we report the dynamics of the gut microbiota in a murine lupus model, NZB/W F1, as well as intestinal dysbiosis in a small group of SLE patients with active disease. The composition of the gut microbiota changed markedly before and after the onset of lupus disease in NZB/W F1 mice, with greater diversity and increased representation of several bacterial species as lupus progressed from the predisease stage to the diseased stage. However, we did not control for age and the cage effect. Using dexamethasone as an intervention to treat SLE-like signs, we also found that a greater abundance of a group of lactobacilli (for which a species assignment could not be made) in the gut microbiota might be correlated with more severe disease in NZB/W F1 mice. Results of the human study suggest that, compared to control subjects without immune-mediated diseases, SLE patients with active lupus disease possessed an altered gut microbiota that differed in several particular bacterial species (within the genera Odoribacter and Blautia and an unnamed genus in the family Rikenellaceae) and was less diverse, with increased representation of Gram-negative bacteria. The Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratios did not differ between the SLE microbiota and the non-SLE microbiota in our human cohort.IMPORTANCE SLE is a complex autoimmune disease with no known cure. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota has been reported for both mice and humans with SLE. In this emerging field, however, more studies are required to delineate the roles of the gut microbiota in different lupus-prone mouse models and people with diverse manifestations of SLE. Here, we report changes in the gut microbiota in NZB/W F1 lupus-prone mice and a group of SLE patients with active disease.

Keywords: lupus; microbiota.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteroidetes / isolation & purification
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Firmicutes / isolation & purification
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / classification
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dexamethasone