Pregnancy-induced changes to the gut microbiota drive macrophage pyroptosis and exacerbate septic inflammation

Immunity. 2023 Feb 14;56(2):336-352.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2023.01.015.


The physiological and immune changes that occur during pregnancy are associated with worsened disease outcomes during infection and sepsis. How these perturbations exacerbate inflammation has not been explored. Here, using antibiotic treatment and fecal microbial transfers, we showed that sepsis susceptibility is driven by pregnancy-induced changes to gut microbiome in mice and humans. Integrative multiomics and genetically engineered bacteria revealed that reduced Parabacteroides merdae (P. merdae) abundance during pregnancy led to decreased formononetin (FMN) and increased macrophage death. Mechanistically, FMN inhibited macrophage pyroptosis by suppressing nuclear accumulation of hnRNPUL2 and subsequent binding to the Nlrp3 promoter. Treatment with FMN or deletion of murine hnRNPUL2 protected against septic inflammation. Intestinal abundances of P. merdae and FMN inversely correlated with the progression of septic patients. Our data reveal a microbe-immune axis that is disrupted in pregnant septic hosts, highlighting the potential of the FMN-hnRNPUL2-NLRP3 axis in providing promising therapeutic strategies for sepsis.

Keywords: formononetin; gut microbiota; hnRNPUL2; macrophage pyroptosis; pregnancy; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyroptosis / physiology
  • Sepsis* / metabolism


  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein