Short-Term Amoxicillin-Induced Perturbation of the Gut Microbiota Promotes Acute Intestinal Immune Regulation in Brown Norway Rats

Front Microbiol. 2020 Mar 26;11:496. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.00496. eCollection 2020.


The intestinal gut microbiota is essential for maintaining host health. Concerns have been raised about the possible connection between antibiotic use, causing microbiota disturbances, and the increase in allergic and autoimmune diseases observed during the last decades. To elucidate the putative connection between antibiotic use and immune regulation, we have assessed the effects of the antibiotic amoxicillin on immune regulation, protein uptake, and bacterial community structure in a Brown Norway rat model. Daily intra-gastric administration of amoxicillin resulted in an immediate and dramatic shift in fecal microbiota, characterized by a reduction of within sample (α) diversity, reduced variation between animals (β diversity), increased relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and Gammaproteobacteria, with concurrent reduction of Firmicutes, compared to a water control group. In the small intestine, amoxicillin also affected microbiota composition significantly, but in a different way than observed in feces. The small intestine of control animals was vastly dominated by Lactobacillus, but this genus was much less abundant in the amoxicillin group. Instead, multiple different genera expanded after amoxicillin administration, with high variation between individual animals, thus the small intestinal α and β diversity were higher in the amoxicillin group compared to controls. After 1 week of daily amoxicillin administration, total fecal IgA level, relative abundance of small intestinal regulatory T cells and goblet cell numbers were higher in the amoxicillin group compared to controls. Several bacterial genera, including Escherichia/Shigella, Klebsiella (Gammaproteobacteria), and Bifidobacterium, for which the relative abundance was higher in the small intestine in the amoxicillin group than in controls, were positively correlated with the fraction of small intestinal regulatory T cells. Despite of epidemiologic studies showing an association between early life antibiotic consumption and later prevalence of inflammatory bowel diseases and food allergies, our findings surprisingly indicated that amoxicillin-induced perturbation of the gut microbiota promotes acute immune regulation. We speculate that the observed increase in relative abundance of small intestinal regulatory T cells is partly mediated by immunomodulatory lipopolysaccharides derived from outgrowth of Gammaproteobacteria.

Keywords: IgA; Treg; antibiotics; goblet cells; host response; microbiome; mucus; regulatory T cells.