Bile acids are abundant in the mammalian gut, where they undergo bacteria-mediated transformation to generate a large pool of bioactive molecules. Although bile acids are known to affect host metabolism, cancer progression and innate immunity, it is unknown whether they affect adaptive immune cells such as T helper cells that express IL-17a (TH17 cells) or regulatory T cells (Treg cells). Here we screen a library of bile acid metabolites and identify two distinct derivatives of lithocholic acid (LCA), 3-oxoLCA and isoalloLCA, as T cell regulators in mice. 3-OxoLCA inhibited the differentiation of TH17 cells by directly binding to the key transcription factor retinoid-related orphan receptor-γt (RORγt) and isoalloLCA increased the differentiation of Treg cells through the production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mitoROS), which led to increased expression of FOXP3. The isoalloLCA-mediated enhancement of Treg cell differentiation required an intronic Foxp3 enhancer, the conserved noncoding sequence (CNS) 3; this represents a mode of action distinct from that of previously identified metabolites that increase Treg cell differentiation, which require CNS1.
Read more at: Nature