The differentiation of IL-10-producing regulatory B cells (Bregs) in response to gut-microbiota-derived signals supports the maintenance of tolerance. However, whether microbiota-derived metabolites can modulate Breg suppressive function remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and arthritic mice have a reduction in microbial-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) compared to healthy controls and that in mice, supplementation with the SCFA butyrate reduces arthritis severity. Butyrate supplementation suppresses arthritis in a Breg-dependent manner by increasing the level of the serotonin-derived metabolite 5-Hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA), which activates the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a newly discovered transcriptional marker for Breg function. Thus, butyrate supplementation via AhR activation controls a molecular program that supports Breg function while inhibiting germinal center (GC) B cell and plasmablast differentiation. Our study demonstrates that butyrate supplementation may serve as a viable therapy for the amelioration of systemic autoimmune disorders.
Keywords: 5-Hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid; B cells; aryl-hydrocarbon receptor; autoimmunity; butyrate; regulatory B cells; rheumatoid arthritis; serotonin; short chain fatty acid; tryptophan metabolism.
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