The Gut Microbiota-Immunity Axis in ALS: A Role in Deciphering Disease Heterogeneity?

Biomedicines. 2021 Jun 29;9(7):753. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9070753.


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder with an unknown etiology and no effective treatment, and is characterized by large phenotypic heterogeneity, including variable sites, ages of symptom onset and rates of disease progression. Increasing data support the role of the microbiota-immunity axis in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. In the present study, we compared the inflammatory and microbiota profile of ALS patients with different clinical characteristics, with healthy family caregivers. Measuring a panel of 30 inflammatory cytokines in serum and fecal samples, we observed a distinct cytokine profile both at the systemic and intestinal level in patients compared to controls and even in patients with different clinical phenotypes and progression rates. The 16S targeted metagenome analysis revealed slight differences in patients compared to controls as well as in patients with slow progression, marked by the reduction of butyrate-producing bacteria and a decrease of the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in ALS. Finally, the short chain fatty acid analysis did not show a different distribution among the groups. If confirmed in a larger number of patients, the inflammatory cytokine profile and the microbial composition could be appropriate biomarker candidates for deciphering ALS heterogeneity.

Keywords: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; cytokines; heterogeneity; inflammation; microbiota; motor neuron disease; short chain fatty acids.