Bacterial activation of T helper 17 (Th17) cells exacerbates mouse models of autoimmunity, but how human-associated bacteria impact Th17-driven disease remains elusive. We show that human gut Actinobacterium Eggerthella lenta induces intestinal Th17 activation by lifting inhibition of the Th17 transcription factor Rorγt through cell- and antigen-independent mechanisms. E. lenta is enriched in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and worsens colitis in a Rorc-dependent manner in mice. Th17 activation varies across E. lenta strains, which is attributable to the cardiac glycoside reductase 2 (Cgr2) enzyme. Cgr2 is sufficient to induce interleukin (IL)-17a, a major Th17 cytokine. cgr2+ E. lenta deplete putative steroidal glycosides in pure culture; related compounds are negatively associated with human IBD severity. Finally, leveraging the sensitivity of Cgr2 to dietary arginine, we prevented E. lenta-induced intestinal inflammation in mice. Together, these results support a role for human gut bacterial metabolism in driving Th17-dependent autoimmunity.
Keywords: T helper 17 cells; autoimmune disease; dietary supplementation; human gut microbiome; inflammatory bowel disease; microbial metabolism.
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