Editors' ChoiceMicrobiome

Bugs clogging your arteries? Take an anti-B2 shot

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Science Translational Medicine  23 Nov 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 366, pp. 366ec187
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aal2795

Atherosclerosis is a chronic process resulting in the formation of plaques, which can rupture and occlude affected arteries. It is the major pathological contributor to mortality from cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease. The effect of gut microbiota on host physiology is well established, with recent data supporting their role in weight gain, impairment of glucose metabolism, and now atherosclerosis. Gut microbiota drive the development of atherosclerotic plaques through metabolism of substrates such as choline, phosphatidylcholine, and L-carnitine (a substance found in red meat) to trimethylamine, with subsequent conversion to trimethylamine oxide by host flavin monooxygenase 3. Now, Chen and colleagues describe a microbiota-driven pathway that promotes atherosclerotic plaques by an effect on immune cells.

The authors of this study found that antibiotic treatment decreased the proatherogenic effect of gut microbes in genetically susceptible mice fed a Western diet, as evidenced by a decrease in atherosclerotic lesion size. In contrast, antibiotic treatment did not attenuate Western diet–induced metabolic alterations or weight gain, suggesting that the effect of microbiota on atherosclerosis is independent of lipid metabolism. Atherosclerosis has been associated with immune cell components such as B cells, but there is a clear gap in knowledge, which is filled by this study, as it shows that activation of B2 B cells mediates the effect of gut microbiota on atherosclerosis. The authors further demonstrated that anti–B2 cell antibody can prevent microbiota-driven atherosclerosis in Western diet–fed mice.

Despite billions of dollars spent, cardiovascular disease remains a leading killer worldwide. This study identifies a potential microbiota-driven target that can be used to prevent onset of cardiovascular disease. Although this study adds an important layer of information linking gut microbiota to atherosclerosis, additional work targeting B2 cells in humans is needed to establish the translational potential of these findings.

L. Chen et al., Commensal microbe-specific activation of B2 cell subsets contributes to atherosclerosis development independently of lipid metabolism. EBioMedicine 10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.10.030 (2016). [Full Text]

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