Enteric defensins are essential regulators of intestinal microbial ecology.
ABSTRACT: Antimicrobial peptides are important effectors of innate immunity throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. In the mammalian small intestine, Paneth cell alpha-defensins are antimicrobial peptides that contribute to host defense against enteric pathogens. To determine if alpha-defensins also govern intestinal microbial ecology, we analyzed the intestinal microbiota of mice expressing a human alpha-defensin gene (DEFA5) and in mice lacking an enzyme required for the processing of mouse alpha-defensins. In these complementary models, we detected significant alpha-defensin-dependent changes in microbiota composition, but not in total bacterial numbers. Furthermore, DEFA5-expressing mice had striking losses of segmented filamentous bacteria and fewer interleukin 17 (IL-17)-producing lamina propria T cells. Our data ascribe a new homeostatic role to alpha-defensins in regulating the makeup of the commensal microbiota.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Defensins represent an important class of antimicrobial peptides. These effector molecules of the innate immune system act as endogenous antibiotics to protect the organism against infections with pathogenic microorganisms. Mammalian defensins are classified into three distinct sub-families (alpha-, beta- and theta-defensins) according to their specific intramolecular disulfide-bond pattern. The peptides exhibit an antimicrobial activity against a broad spectrum of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi. Alpha-Defensins are primarily synthesised in neutrophils and intestinal Paneth cells. They play a role in the pathogenesis of intestinal diseases and may regulate the flora of the intestinal tract. An equine intestinal alpha-defensin (DEFA1), the first characterised in the Laurasiatheria, shows a broad antimicrobial spectrum against human and equine pathogens. Here we report a first investigation of the repertoire of equine intestinal alpha-defensins. The equine genome was screened for putative alpha-defensin genes by using known alpha-defensin sequences as matrices. Based on the obtained sequence information, a set of oligonucleotides specific to the alpha-defensin gene-family was designed. The products generated by reverse-transcriptase PCR with cDNA from the small intestine as template were sub-cloned and numerous clones were sequenced. RESULTS: Thirty-eight equine intestinal alpha-defensin transcripts were determined. After translation it became evident that at least 20 of them may code for functional peptides. Ten transcripts lacked matching genomic sequences and for 14 alpha-defensin genes apparently present in the genome no appropriate transcript could be verified. In other cases the same genomic exons were found in different transcripts. CONCLUSIONS: The large repertoire of equine alpha-defensins found in this study points to a particular importance of these peptides regarding animal health and protection from infectious diseases. Moreover, these findings make the horse an excellent species to study biological properties of alpha-defensins. Interestingly, the peptides were not found in other species of the Laurasiatheria to date. Comparison of the obtained transcripts with the genomic sequences in the current assembly of the horse (EquCab2.0) indicates that it is yet not complete and/or to some extent falsely assembled.
Project description:Antimicrobial peptides are secreted by small intestinal Paneth cells as components of innate immunity. To investigate the role of alpha-defensins in enteric host defenses in nonhuman primates, alpha-defensin cDNAs were isolated, alpha-defensin peptides were purified from rhesus macaque small bowel, and the bactericidal activities of the peptides were measured. Six rhesus enteric alpha-defensin (RED) cDNAs, RED-1 to RED-6, were identified in a jejunum cDNA library; the deduced RED peptides exhibited extensive diversity relative to the primary structures of rhesus myeloid alpha-defensins. RED-4 was purified from monkey jejunum, and N-terminal peptide sequencing of putative RED-4 peptides identified two N termini, RTCYCRTGR. and TCYCRTGRC.; these corresponded to alternative N termini for the RED-4 molecules, as deduced from their molecular masses and RED cDNAs. In situ hybridization experiments localized RED mRNAs exclusively to small intestinal Paneth cells. Recombinant RED-1 to RED-4 were purified to homogeneity and shown to be microbicidal in the low micromolar range (</=10 micro g/ml) against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, with individual peptides exhibiting variable target cell specificities. Thus, compared to myeloid alpha-defensins from rhesus macaques, enteric alpha-defensin peptides are highly variable in both primary structure and activity. These studies should facilitate further analyses of the role of alpha-defensins in primate enteric immunity.
Project description:Antimicrobial peptides, in particular α-defensins expressed by Paneth cells, control microbiota composition and play a key role in intestinal barrier function and homeostasis. Dynamic conditions in the local microenvironment, such as pH and redox potential, significantly affect the antimicrobial spectrum. In contrast to oxidized peptides, some reduced defensins exhibit increased vulnerability to proteolytic degradation. In this report, we investigated the susceptibility of Paneth-cell-specific human α-defensin 5 (HD-5) and -6 (HD-6) to intestinal proteases using natural human duodenal fluid. We systematically assessed proteolytic degradation using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and identified several active defensin fragments capable of impacting bacterial growth of both commensal and pathogenic origins. Of note, incubation of mucus with HD-5 resulted in 255-8,000 new antimicrobial combinations. In contrast, HD-6 remained stable with consistent preserved nanonet formation. In vivo studies demonstrated proof of concept that a HD-5 fragment shifted microbiota composition (e.g., increases of Akkermansia sp.) without decreasing diversity. Our data support the concept that secretion of host peptides results in an environmentally dependent increase of antimicrobial defense by clustering in active peptide fragments. This complex clustering mechanism dramatically increases the host's ability to control pathogens and commensals. These findings broaden our understanding of host modulation of the microbiome as well as the complexity of human mucosal defense mechanisms, thus providing promising avenues to explore for drug development.
Project description:Metabolic syndrome (MetS), characterized as obesity, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD), is associated with vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency in epidemiological studies, while the underlying mechanism is poorly addressed. On the other hand, disorder of gut microbiota, namely dysbiosis, is known to cause MetS and NAFLD. It is also known that systemic inflammation blocks insulin signaling pathways, leading to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which are the driving force for hepatic steatosis. Vitamin D receptor (VDR) is highly expressed in the ileum of the small intestine, which prompted us to test a hypothesis that vitamin D signaling may determine the enterotype of gut microbiota through regulating the intestinal interface. Here, we demonstrate that high-fat-diet feeding (HFD) is necessary but not sufficient, while additional vitamin D deficiency (VDD) as a second hit is needed, to induce robust insulin resistance and fatty liver. Under the two hits (HFD+VDD), the Paneth cell-specific alpha-defensins including ?-defensin 5 (DEFA5), MMP7 which activates the pro-defensins, as well as tight junction genes, and MUC2 are all suppressed in the ileum, resulting in mucosal collapse, increased gut permeability, dysbiosis, endotoxemia, systemic inflammation which underlie insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. Moreover, under the vitamin D deficient high fat feeding (HFD+VDD), Helicobacter hepaticus, a known murine hepatic-pathogen, is substantially amplified in the ileum, while Akkermansia muciniphila, a beneficial symbiotic, is diminished. Likewise, the VD receptor (VDR) knockout mice exhibit similar phenotypes, showing down regulation of alpha-defensins and MMP7 in the ileum, increased Helicobacter hepaticus and suppressed Akkermansia muciniphila. Remarkably, oral administration of DEFA5 restored eubiosys, showing suppression of Helicobacter hepaticus and increase of Akkermansia muciniphila in association with resolving metabolic disorders and fatty liver in the HFD+VDD mice. An in vitro analysis showed that DEFA5 peptide could directly suppress Helicobacter hepaticus. Thus, the results of this study reveal critical roles of a vitamin D/VDR axis in optimal expression of defensins and tight junction genes in support of intestinal integrity and eubiosis to suppress NAFLD and metabolic disorders.
Project description:The pathogenesis of Crohn's disease (CD), an idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease, is attributed, in part, to intestinal bacteria that may initiate and perpetuate mucosal inflammation in genetically susceptible individuals. Paneth cells (PC) are the major source of antimicrobial peptides in the small intestine, including human alpha-defensins HD5 and HD6. We tested the hypothesis that reduced expression of PC alpha-defensins compromises mucosal host defenses and predisposes patients to CD of the ileum. We report that patients with CD of the ileum have reduced antibacterial activity in their intestinal mucosal extracts. These specimens also showed decreased expression of PC alpha-defensins, whereas the expression of eight other PC products either remained unchanged or increased when compared with controls. The specific decrease of alpha-defensins was independent of the degree of inflammation in the specimens and was not observed in either CD of the colon, ulcerative colitis, or pouchitis. The functional consequence of alpha-defensin expression levels was examined by using a transgenic mouse model, where we found changes in HD5 expression levels, comparable to those observed in CD, had a pronounced impact on the luminal microbiota. Thus, the specific deficiency of PC defensins that characterizes ileal CD may compromise innate immune defenses of the ileal mucosa and initiate and/or perpetuate this disease.
Project description:?-defensins are abundant antimicrobial peptides with broad, potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activities in vitro. Although their contribution to host defense against bacteria in vivo has been demonstrated, comparable studies of their antiviral activity in vivo are lacking. Using a mouse model deficient in activated ?-defensins in the small intestine, we show that Paneth cell ?-defensins protect mice from oral infection by a pathogenic virus, mouse adenovirus 1 (MAdV-1). Survival differences between mouse genotypes are lost upon parenteral MAdV-1 infection, strongly implicating a role for intestinal defenses in attenuating pathogenesis. Although differences in ?-defensin expression impact the composition of the ileal commensal bacterial population, depletion studies using broad-spectrum antibiotics revealed no effect of the microbiota on ?-defensin-dependent viral pathogenesis. Moreover, despite the sensitivity of MAdV-1 infection to ?-defensin neutralization in cell culture, we observed no barrier effect due to Paneth cell ?-defensin activation on the kinetics and magnitude of MAdV-1 dissemination to the brain. Rather, a protective neutralizing antibody response was delayed in the absence of ?-defensins. This effect was specific to oral viral infection, because antibody responses to parenteral or mucosal ovalbumin exposure were not affected by ?-defensin deficiency. Thus, ?-defensins play an important role as adjuvants in antiviral immunity in vivo that is distinct from their direct antiviral activity observed in cell culture.
Project description:Modulation of defensin expression may be one way to improve animal health and to reduce zoonotic diseases. Defensins are small, cationic, and amphipathic cysteine-rich antibiotic peptides found in plants, insects, mammals and birds. Whereas alpha- and theta-defensins appear to be absent in birds, several beta-defensins have been isolated from avian heterophils. In addition, beta-defensins were found to be constitutively or inducibly expressed at mucosal surfaces of the respiratory, intestinal and urogenital tracts. In this review the current knowledge of the defensin repertoire of birds, their tissue-specific expression, regulation and corresponding biological functions are described.
Project description:Six alpha-defensins have been found in humans. These small arginine-rich peptides play important roles in various processes related to host defense, being the effectors and regulators of innate immunity as well as enhancers of adoptive immune responses. Four defensins, called neutrophil peptides 1 through 4, are stored primarily in polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Major sites of expression of defensins 5 and 6 are Paneth cells of human small intestine. So far, only one structure of human alpha-defensin (HNP3) has been reported, and the properties of the intestine defensins 5 and 6 are particularly poorly understood. In this report, we present the high-resolution X-ray structures of three human defensins, 4 through 6, supplemented with studies of their antimicrobial and chemotactic properties. Despite only modest amino acid sequence identity, all three defensins share their tertiary structures with other known alpha- and beta-defensins. Like HNP3 but in contrast to murine or rabbit alpha-defensins, human defensins 4-6 form characteristic dimers. Whereas antimicrobial and chemotactic activity of HNP4 is somewhat comparable to that of other human neutrophil defensins, neither of the intestinal defensins appears to be chemotactic, and for HD6 also an antimicrobial activity has yet to be observed. The unusual biological inactivity of HD6 may be associated with its structural properties, somewhat standing out when compared with other human alpha-defensins. The strongest cationic properties and unique distribution of charged residues on the molecular surface of HD5 may be associated with its highest bactericidal activity among human alpha-defensins.
Project description:In addition to their established functions in host defense, accumulating evidence has suggested an emerging role for antimicrobial proteins (AMPs) in shaping commensal microbiota. However, the role of ?-defensins, the most abundant AMPs of intestine, in regulating microbial ecology remains inconclusive. Here, we report that ?-defensins promote commensal Bacteroides colonization by enhancing bacterial adhesion to the mucosal reservoir. Experiments utilizing mice deficient in matrix metalloproteinase 7 (MMP7), the ?-defensin-activating enzyme, with rigorous littermate controls showed that ?-defensin deficiency did not significantly influence steady-state intestinal microbiota. In contrast, ?-defensins are essential for replenishment of commensal Bacteroides from the mucosal reservoir following antibiotics-induced dysbiosis, shown by markedly compromised recovery of Bacteroides in Mmp7 -/- animals. Mechanistically, ?-defensins promote Bacteroides colonization on epithelial surfaces in vivo and adhesion to epithelial cells in vitro. Moreover, ?-defensins unexpectedly does not show any microbicidal activities against Bacteroides. Together, we propose that ?-defensins promote commensal bacterial colonization and recovery to maintain microbial diversity upon environmental challenges.
Project description:The intestinal microbial ecosystem is actively regulated by Paneth cell-derived antimicrobial peptides such as ?-defensins. Various disorders, including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), disrupt Paneth cell functions, resulting in unfavorably altered intestinal microbiota (dysbiosis), which further accelerates the underlying diseases. Current strategies to restore the gut ecosystem are bacteriotherapy such as fecal microbiota transplantation and probiotics, and no physiological approach has been developed so far. In this study, we demonstrate a novel approach to restore gut microbial ecology by Wnt agonist R-Spondin1 (R-Spo1) or recombinant ?-defensin in mice. R-Spo1 stimulates intestinal stem cells to differentiate to Paneth cells and enhances luminal secretion of ?-defensins. Administration of R-Spo1 or recombinant ?-defensin prevents GVHD-mediated dysbiosis, thus representing a novel and physiological approach at modifying the gut ecosystem to restore intestinal homeostasis and host-microbiota cross talk toward therapeutic benefits.