Chance discovery links inflammatory bowel disease with common bacterial gut toxin

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Credit: Andrew Davis

New research has uncovered a surprise link between a common bacterial toxin found in the gut and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The researchers at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, working alongside a team of scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, USA), have helped establish a connection between microcin B17, a well-known toxin produced by E. coli bacteria, and IBD.

IBD includes long-term conditions such Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which together affect more than 300,000 people in the UK.

The research, published today in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, raises prospects of future therapy for IBD sufferers.

The John Innes Centre scientists, led by Professor Tony Maxwell, have been working with microcin B17 for several years in their search for new antibiotics. It is produced by E. coli (Escherichia coli) as a weapon against other bacteria in the gut.

Professor Maxwell says: 'This is largely a chance finding. We have been studying this toxin for its antibacterial properties and we were contacted by Professor Richard Blumberg who leads the Boston group for quite different reasons – they thought there might be a connection between the toxin and IBD."

The two teams worked together to show that breakdown products from the toxin seem to trigger gut inflammation that is characteristic of IBD.

The research, furthermore, identifies the oxazole class of aromatic organic compounds as a new source of environmental and microbial triggers of gastrointestinal inflammation.

Dr Fred Collin, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Maxwell's lab, who carried out key aspects of the work says: 'These findings will advance our understanding of how gut inflammation associated with IBD may be triggered and offer new hope of potential future therapy."

The research team say that advances in genome-wide association studies have established genetic links with the development of IBD. But environmental elements and host reactions have yet to bet precisely defined.

In addition to increasing public understanding of IBD, the study sheds new light on the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria in the gut.

"The bacteria that live inside us have a lot of impact on well-being and the twist here is that it's not the E. coli bacteria but the toxin that's produced by the bacteria that appears to have an effect," explains Professor Maxwell.

"They produce these toxins to kill their neighbours in their fight for ecological niches but it appears that the breakdown products of the toxin can initiate gut inflammation," he adds.

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See the full findings in the paper Dietary and Microbial Oxazoles Induce Intestinal Inflammation by Modulating Epithelial Derived Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Responses

The full report: http://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(18)30568-3

Background information: DOI will be 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.037.

Pictures/Media and captions: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1X8te5Ob3ucf0LooggLcJ2ajZF_r-kaJW

Notes for Editors

Contacts

Press Contact: Felicity Perry – [email protected]
Tel: 01603 450269 Out of Hours Tel: 07881 255193

About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology.

Our mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, to apply our knowledge of nature's diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health, and wellbeing, and engage with policy makers and the public.

To achieve these goals we establish pioneering long-term research objectives in plant and microbial science, with a focus on genetics. These objectives include promoting the translation of research through partnerships to develop improved crops and to make new products from microbes and plants for human health and other applications. We also create new approaches, technologies and resources that enable research advances and help industry to make new products. The knowledge, resources and trained researchers we generate help global societies address important challenges including providing sufficient and affordable food, making new products for human health and industrial applications, and developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

This provides a fertile environment for training the next generation of plant and microbial scientists, many of whom go on to careers in industry and academia, around the world.

The John Innes Centre is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2015-2016 the John Innes Centre received a total of £30.1 million from the BBSRC.

The John Innes Centre is also supported by the John Innes Foundation through provision of research accommodation and long-term support of the Rotation PhD programme.

The John Innes Centre is the winner of the BBSRC's 2013 – 2016 Excellence with Impact award.

For more information about the John Innes Centre visit our website http://www.jic.ac.uk

About the BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £473M in world-class bioscience in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

Media Contact

Felicity Perry
[email protected]
01-603-450-269
@johninnescentre

http://www.jic.ac.uk

Related Journal Article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.037

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