Butyrate and propionate inhibit antigen-specific CD8+ T cell activation by suppressing IL-12 production by antigen-presenting cells

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Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, butyrate and propionate, are products of microbial macronutrients fermentation that distribute systemically and are believed to modulate host immune responses. Recent data have indicated that certain SCFAs, such as butyrate and propionate, directly modulate human dendritic cell (DC) function. Given the role of DCs in initiating and shaping the adaptive immune response, we now explore how SCFAs affect the activation of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells stimulated with autologous, MART1 peptide-pulsed DC. We show that butyrate reduces the frequency of peptide-specific CD8+ T cells and, together with propionate, inhibit the activity of those cells. On the contrary, acetate does not affect them. Importantly, butyrate and propionate inhibit the production of IL-12 and IL-23 in the DCs and exogenous IL-12 fully restores the activation of the MART-1-specific CD8+ T cells, whereas IL-23 has no effect. In conclusion, these results point to a pivotal role of butyrate and propionate in modulating CD8+ T cell activation via the inhibition of IL-12 secretion from DCs. These findings reveal a novel mechanism whereby bacterial fermentation products may modulate CD8+ T cell function with possible implications in anti-cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14516
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

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ID: 185942316