Human Microbiota Flagellins Drive Adaptive Immune Responses in Crohn's Disease

Katie L. Alexander, Qing Zhao, Meagan Reif, Alexander F. Rosenberg, Peter J. Mannon, Lennard Wayne Duck, Charles O. Elson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are characterized by dysregulated adaptive immune responses to the microbiota in genetically susceptible individuals, but the specificity of these responses remains largely undefined. Therefore, we developed a microbiota antigen microarray to characterize microbial antibody reactivity, particularly to human-derived microbiota flagellins, in inflammatory bowel disease. Methods: Sera from healthy volunteers (n = 87) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and from patients recruited from the Kirklin Clinic of University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, including patients with Crohn's disease (n = 152) and ulcerative colitis (n = 170), were individually probed against microbiota bacterial flagellins of both mouse and human origin and analyzed for IgG and IgA antibody responses. Circulating flagellin-reactive T effector (CD4+CD154+) and T regulatory (CD4+CD137+) cells were isolated and evaluated in selected patients. Resulting adaptive immune responses were compared with corresponding clinical data to determine relevancy to disease behavior. Results: We show that patients with IBD express selective patterns of antibody reactivity to microbiota flagellins. Patients with Crohn's disease, but not patients with ulcerative colitis, display augmented serum IgG to human ileal-localized Lachnospiraceae flagellins, with a subset of patients having high responses to more than 10 flagellins. Elevated responses to CBir1, a mouse Lachnospiraceae flagellin used clinically to diagnose CD, correlated with multi-Lachnospiraceae flagellin reactivity. In this subset of patients with CD, multi-flagellin reactivity was associated with elevated flagellin-specific CD154+CD45RA T memory cells, a reduced ratio of flagellin-reactive CD4+ T regulatory to T effector cells, and a high frequency of disease complications. Conclusions: Patients with Crohn's disease display strong adaptive immune response to human-derived Lachnospiraceae flagellins, which may be targeted for prognosis and future personalized therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-535.e6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Flagellin
  • Microbiota

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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