Bifidobacteria-mediated immune system imprinting early in life

Bethany M. Henrick, Lucie Rodriguez, Tadepally Lakshmikanth, Christian Pou, Ewa Henckel, Aron Arzoomand, Axel Olin, Jun Wang, Jaromir Mikes, Ziyang Tan, Yang Chen, Amy M. Ehrlich, Anna Karin Bernhardsson, Constantin Habimana Mugabo, Ylva Ambrosiani, Anna Gustafsson, Stephanie Chew, Heather K. Brown, Johann Prambs, Kajsa BohlinRyan D. Mitchell, Mark A. Underwood, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, J. Bruce German, Steven A. Frese, Petter Brodin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Immune-microbe interactions early in life influence the risk of allergies, asthma, and other inflammatory diseases. Breastfeeding guides healthier immune-microbe relationships by providing nutrients to specialized microbes that in turn benefit the host's immune system. Such bacteria have co-evolved with humans but are now increasingly rare in modern societies. Here we show that a lack of bifidobacteria, and in particular depletion of genes required for human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) utilization from the metagenome, is associated with systemic inflammation and immune dysregulation early in life. In breastfed infants given Bifidobacterium infantis EVC001, which expresses all HMO-utilization genes, intestinal T helper 2 (Th2) and Th17 cytokines were silenced and interferon β (IFNβ) was induced. Fecal water from EVC001-supplemented infants contains abundant indolelactate and B. infantis-derived indole-3-lactic acid (ILA) upregulated immunoregulatory galectin-1 in Th2 and Th17 cells during polarization, providing a functional link between beneficial microbes and immunoregulation during the first months of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3884-3898.e11
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 22 2021


  • human immunology
  • immune system development
  • mass cytometry
  • metagenomics
  • microbiome
  • neonate
  • neonatology
  • newborn immune systems
  • systems immunology
  • transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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