Microbiota-dependent indole production is required for the development of collagen-induced arthritis

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Oct 13:2023.10.13.561693. doi: 10.1101/2023.10.13.561693.


Altered tryptophan catabolism has been identified in inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondyloarthritis (SpA), but the causal mechanisms linking tryptophan metabolites to disease are unknown. Using the collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model we identify alterations in tryptophan metabolism, and specifically indole, that correlate with disease. We demonstrate that both bacteria and dietary tryptophan are required for disease, and indole supplementation is sufficient to induce disease in their absence. When mice with CIA on a low-tryptophan diet were supplemented with indole, we observed significant increases in serum IL-6, TNF, and IL-1β; splenic RORγt+CD4+ T cells and ex vivo collagen-stimulated IL-17 production; and a pattern of anti-collagen antibody isotype switching and glycosylation that corresponded with increased complement fixation. IL-23 neutralization reduced disease severity in indole-induced CIA. Finally, exposure of human colon lymphocytes to indole increased expression of genes involved in IL-17 signaling and plasma cell activation. Altogether, we propose a mechanism by which intestinal dysbiosis during inflammatory arthritis results in altered tryptophan catabolism, leading to indole stimulation of arthritis development. Blockade of indole generation may present a novel therapeutic pathway for RA and SpA.

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