Elevated Gut Microbiome-Derived Propionate Levels Are Associated With Reduced Sterile Lung Inflammation and Bacterial Immunity in Mice

Front Microbiol. 2019 Feb 14;10:159. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00159. eCollection 2019.


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are important dietary and microbiome metabolites that can have roles in gut immunity as well as further afield. We previously observed that gut microbiome alteration via antibiotics led to attenuated lung inflammatory responses. The rationale for this study was to identify gut microbiome factors that regulate lung immune homeostasis. We first investigated key factors within mouse colonic lumen filtrates (CLF) which could elicit direct inflammatory effects in vitro. We identified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and SCFAs as key CLF ingredients whose levels and inflammatory capacity changed after antibiotic exposure in mice. Specifically, the SCFA propionate appeared to be a key regulator of LPS responses in vitro. Elevated propionate: acetate ratios, as seen in CLF after antibiotic exposure, strongly blunted inflammatory responses in vitro. In vivo, exposure of lungs to high dose propionate, to mimic how prior antibiotic exposure changed SCFA levels, resulted in diminished immune containment of Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia. Finally, we discovered an enrichment of propionate-producing gut bacteria in mice with reduced lung inflammation following lung ischemia reperfusion injury in vivo. Overall, our data show that propionate levels can distinctly modulate lung immune responses in vitro and in vivo and that gut microbiome increased production of propionate is associated with reduced lung inflammation.

Keywords: IR; SCFA; acetate; inflammation; lung injury; propionate; short-chain fatty acids.