Rewilding Nod2 and Atg16l1 Mutant Mice Uncovers Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Microbial Responses and Immune Cell Composition

Cell Host Microbe. 2020 May 13;27(5):830-840.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.03.001. Epub 2020 Mar 24.


The relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to variation in immune responses are poorly understood. Here, we performed a phenotypic analysis of immunological parameters in laboratory mice carrying susceptibility genes implicated in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Nod2 and Atg16l1) upon exposure to environmental microbes. Mice were released into an outdoor enclosure (rewilded) and then profiled for immune responses in the blood and lymph nodes. Variations of immune cell populations were largely driven by the environment, whereas cytokine production elicited by microbial antigens was more affected by the genetic mutations. We identified transcriptional signatures in the lymph nodes associated with differences in T cell populations. Subnetworks associated with responses against Clostridium perfringens, Candida albicans, and Bacteroides vulgatus were also coupled with rewilding. Therefore, exposing laboratory mice with genetic mutations to a natural environment uncovers different contributions to variations in microbial responses and immune cell composition.

Keywords: immune variation; inflammatory bowel disease; machine learning model; multi-omic data integration; rewilded mice.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins
  • Bacteroides
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Environment
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases*
  • Mice


  • Atg16l1 protein, mouse
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins