Microbial translocation revisited: targeting the endotoxic potential of gut microbes in HIV-infected individuals

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Objective:Translocation of microbial products such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from the gut may contribute to chronic inflammation in HIV-infected individuals. Recent studies indicate that differences in degree of acylation of gut-bacterial-derived LPS may explain variable immune effects, with hexa-acylated rather than penta-acylated LPS having proinflammatory capacity. We investigated whether the degree of acylation of gut-derived LPS associates with systemic inflammation, and the potential effect of probiotic intervention.Methods:Gut microbiota profiles from a probiotics intervention were investigated and validated in a cohort of HIV-infected individuals commencing antiretroviral therapy. The PiCRUSt software was used to predict overall functional capacity of the microbiota and in-house bioinformatics to distinguish between bacteria producing hexa-acylated and penta-acylated LPS.Results and conclusion:HIV-infected individuals with the highest ratio of proinflammatory hexa-acylated LPS to noninflammatory penta-acylated LPS-producing bacteria exhibited increased levels of systemic inflammation (neopterin, P < 0.001) and tryptophan catabolism (kynurenine/tryptophan ratio, P = 0.01), indicating a link between proinflammatory LPS, tryptophan catabolism and inflammation. After probiotics for 8 weeks, there was a decrease in Gram-negative bacteria (P = 0.01), related primarily to a reduction in bacteria producing penta-acylated LPS (P = 0.01), but not hexa-acylated LPS. The reduction in Gram-negative bacteria correlated positively with decreased plasma LPS (r = 0.72), mainly related to a reduction in bacteria producing noninflammatory penta-acylated LPS (r = 0.58). Notably, gut bacteria producing hexa-acylated LPS were outnumbered by penta-acylated LPS with a factor of 25 in HIV-infected individuals. Further studies are warranted to determine whether microbes producing hexa-acylated LPS might be a more relevant trigger of systemic inflammation compared with plasma LPS captured by the existing limulus assay.

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