The Role of Gut Microbiota and Environmental Factors in Type 1 Diabetes Pathogenesis

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 26;11:78. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00078. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is regarded as an autoimmune disease characterized by insulin deficiency resulting from destruction of pancreatic β-cells. The incidence rates of T1D have increased worldwide. Over the past decades, progress has been made in understanding the complexity of the immune response and its role in T1D pathogenesis, however, the trigger of T1D autoimmunity remains unclear. The increasing incidence rates, immigrant studies, and twin studies suggest that environmental factors play an important role and the trigger cannot simply be explained by genetic predisposition. Several research initiatives have identified environmental factors that potentially contribute to the onset of T1D autoimmunity and the progression of disease in children/young adults. More recently, the interplay between gut microbiota and the immune system has been implicated as an important factor in T1D pathogenesis. Although results often vary between studies, broad compositional and diversity patterns have emerged from both longitudinal and cross-sectional human studies. T1D patients have a less diverse gut microbiota, an increased prevalence of Bacteriodetes taxa and an aberrant metabolomic profile compared to healthy controls. In this comprehensive review, we present the data obtained from both animal and human studies focusing on the large longitudinal human studies. These studies are particularly valuable in elucidating the environmental factors that lead to aberrant gut microbiota composition and potentially contribute to T1D. We also discuss how environmental factors, such as birth mode, diet, and antibiotic use modulate gut microbiota and how this potentially contributes to T1D. In the final section, we focus on existing recent literature on microbiota-produced metabolites, proteins, and gut virome function as potential protectants or triggers of T1D onset. Overall, current results indicate that higher levels of diversity along with the presence of beneficial microbes and the resulting microbial-produced metabolites can act as protectors against T1D onset. However, the specifics of the interplay between host and microbes are yet to be discovered.

Keywords: autoimmunity; environmental factors; longitudinal studies children; microbiome; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*