Transplantation of bacteriophages from ulcerative colitis patients shifts the gut bacteriome and exacerbates severity of DSS-colitis


Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) including Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are characterized by chronic and debilitating gut inflammation. Altered bacterial communities of the intestine are strongly associated with IBD initiation and progression. The gut virome, which is primarily composed of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages, phages) is thought to be an important factor regulating and shaping microbial communities in the gut. While alterations in the gut virome have been observed in IBD patients, the contribution of these viruses to alterations in the bacterial community and heightened inflammatory responses associated with IBD patients remains largely unknown. Here, we performed in vivo microbial cross-infection experiments to follow the effects of fecal virus-like particles (VLPs) isolated from UC patients and healthy controls on bacterial diversity and severity of experimental colitis in human microbiota-associated (HMA) mice. Shotgun metagenomics confirmed that several phages were transferred to HMA mice, resulting in treatment-specific alterations in the gut virome. VLPs from healthy and UC patients also shifted gut bacterial diversity of these mice, an effect that was amplified during experimental colitis. VLPs isolated from UC patients specifically altered the relative abundance of several bacterial taxa previously implicated in IBD progression. Additionally, UC VLP administration heightened colitis severity in HMA mice, as indicated by shortened colon length and increased pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Importantly, this effect was dependent on intact VLPs. Our findings build on recent literature indicating that phages are dynamic regulators of bacterial communities in the gut and implicate the intestinal virome in modulating intestinal inflammation and disease.

Michael Shamash
Michael Shamash
Master’s Student

My research focuses on phage-bacteria dynamics of the infant gut microbiota, during health and disease.