Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
We are all born germ-free. Soon after birth, microbes colonize our body’s surfaces, with the intestine housing the highest density of microbes on earth. Most of us remain blissfully unaware of this co-existence because inflammatory responses to the indigenous microbes are normally not triggered. Nonetheless, intestinal microbes are true educators of our immune system, which is exemplified by the immature immune system observed in germ-free animals. Accumulating evidence suggests that microbial exposure and/or composition impacts on immune regulation. As an example, isotype switch to immunoglobulin E (IgE) is normally very tightly regulated such that in healthy individuals and mice, serum levels are maintained at very low levels. In contrast, total serum IgE levels are elevated in germ-free mice, indicating that in the absence of microbes the regulatory pathway that maintains IgE at basal levels is disrupted. We hypothesize that in the absence of stimuli from the resident intestinal bacteria the immune system does not receive adequate educational signals. We showed that in germ-free mice class switch recombination (CSR) to IgE occurred at intestinal mucosal lymphoid sites a few weeks after birth. IgE levels then remained at elevated levels throughout life, even when intestinal bacteria were introduced after weaning. In the first part of this thesis, the mechanisms involved in this hygiene-induced IgE were investigateted. In a second part, the immunoregulatory role of commensal bacteria was extended to a model of autoimmunity.
Collectively these results demonstrate a new dimension of the impact of intestinal symbionts on the immune system: they dictate baseline immune system regulation. Elucidating the mechanisms whereby microbes induce immunoregulatory pathways may give insights into the increasing prevalence of allergic- and autoimmune diseases.
Cahenzli, Julia, "Impact of intestinal microbial composition on the regulation of immunoglobulin E" (2011). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6308.
McMaster University Library