Research Publications Spotlight

Khailova L, Baird CH, Rush AA, Barnes C, Wischmeyer PE. Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG Treatment Improves Intestinal Permeability and Modulates Inflammatory Response and Homeostasis of Spleen and Colon in Experimental Model of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Pneumonia. Clin Nutr. 2016 Oct 1. pii: S0261-5614(16)31265-1. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.09.025. [Epub ahead of print]


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Recent clinical trials and in vivo models demonstrate probiotic administration can reduce occurrence and improve outcome of pneumonia and sepsis, both major clinical challenges worldwide. Potential probiotic benefits include maintenance of gut epithelial barrier homeostasis and prevention of downstream organ dysfunction due to systemic inflammation. However, mechanism(s) of probiotic-mediated protection against pneumonia remain poorly understood. This study evaluated potential mechanistic targets in the maintenance of gut barrier homeostasis following Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) treatment in a mouse model of pneumonia.

METHODS: Studies were performed in 6-8 week old FVB/N mice treated (o.g.) with or without LGG (109 CFU/ml) and intratracheally injected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or saline. At 4, 12, and 24 h post-bacterial treatment spleen and colonic tissue were collected for analysis.

RESULTS: Pneumonia significantly increased intestinal permeability and gut claudin-2. LGG significantly attenuated increased gut permeability and claudin-2 following pneumonia back to sham control levels. As mucin expression is key to gut barrier homeostasis we demonstrate that LGG can enhance goblet cell expression and mucin barrier formation versus control pneumonia animals. Further as Muc2 is a key gut mucin, we show LGG corrected deficient Muc2 expression post-pneumonia. Apoptosis increased in both colon and spleen post-pneumonia, and this increase was significantly attenuated by LGG. Concomitantly, LGG corrected pneumonia-mediated loss of cell proliferation in colon and significantly enhanced cell proliferation in spleen. Finally, LGG significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression in colon and spleen post-pneumonia.

CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate LGG can maintain intestinal barrier homeostasis by enhancing gut mucin expression/barrier formation, reducing apoptosis, and improving cell proliferation. This was accompanied by reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression in the gut and in a downstream organ (spleen). These may serve as potential mechanistic targets to explain LGG’s protection against pneumonia in the clinical and in vivo setting.

McDonald D, Ackermann G, Khailova L, Baird C, Heyland D, Kozar R, Lemieux M, Derenski K, King J, Vis-Kampen C, Knight R, Wischmeyer PE. Extreme Dysbiosis of the Microbiome in Critical Illness. mSphere. 2016 Aug 31;1(4). pii: e00199-16. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00199-16.


Critical illness is hypothesized to associate with loss of “health-promoting” commensal microbes and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria (dysbiosis). This dysbiosis is believed to increase susceptibility to nosocomial infections, sepsis, and organ failure. A trial with prospective monitoring of the intensive care unit (ICU) patient microbiome using culture-independent techniques to confirm and characterize this dysbiosis is thus urgently needed. Characterizing ICU patient microbiome changes may provide first steps toward the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions using microbiome signatures. To characterize the ICU patient microbiome, we collected fecal, oral, and skin samples from 115 mixed ICU patients across four centers in the United States and Canada. Samples were collected at two time points: within 48 h of ICU admission, and at ICU discharge or on ICU day 10. Sample collection and processing were performed according to Earth Microbiome Project protocols. We applied SourceTracker to assess the source composition of ICU patient samples by using Qiita, including samples from the American Gut Project (AGP), mammalian corpse decomposition samples, childhood (Global Gut study), and house surfaces. Our results demonstrate that critical illness leads to significant and rapid dysbiosis. Many taxons significantly depleted from ICU patients versus AGP healthy controls are key “health-promoting” organisms, and overgrowth of known pathogens was frequent. Source compositions of ICU patient samples are largely uncharacteristic of the expected community type. Between time points and within a patient, the source composition changed dramatically. Our initial results show great promise for microbiome signatures as diagnostic markers and guides to therapeutic interventions in the ICU to repopulate the normal, “health-promoting” microbiome and thereby improve patient outcomes. IMPORTANCE Critical illness may be associated with the loss of normal, “health promoting” bacteria, allowing overgrowth of disease-promoting pathogenic bacteria (dysbiosis), which, in turn, makes patients susceptible to hospital-acquired infections, sepsis, and organ failure. This has significant world health implications, because sepsis is becoming a leading cause of death worldwide, and hospital-acquired infections contribute to significant illness and increased costs. Thus, a trial that monitors the ICU patient microbiome to confirm and characterize this hypothesis is urgently needed. Our study analyzed the microbiomes of 115 critically ill subjects and demonstrated rapid dysbiosis from unexpected environmental sources after ICU admission. These data may provide the first steps toward defining targeted therapies that correct potentially “illness-promoting” dysbiosis with probiotics or with targeted, multimicrobe synthetic “stool pills” that restore a healthy microbiome in the ICU setting to improve patient outcomes.

Liu B, Tai Y, Caceres AI, Achanta S, Balakrishna S, Shao X, Fang J, Jordt SE. Oxidized Phospholipid OxPAPC Activates TRPA1 and Contributes to Chronic Inflammatory Pain in Mice. PLoS One. 2016 Nov 3;11(11):e0165200. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165200. eCollection 2016.


Oxidation products of the naturally occurring phospholipid 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol-3-phosphatidylcholine (PAPC), which are known as OxPAPC, accumulate in atherosclerotic lesions and at other sites of inflammation in conditions such as septic inflammation and acute lung injury to exert pro- or anti-inflammatory effects. It is currently unknown whether OxPAPC also contributes to inflammatory pain and peripheral neuronal excitability in these conditions. Here, we observed that OxPAPC dose-dependently and selectively activated human TRPA1 nociceptive ion channels expressed in HEK293 cells in vitro, without any effect on other TRP channels, including TRPV1, TRPV4 and TRPM8. OxPAPC agonist activity was dependent on essential cysteine and lysine residues within the N-terminus of the TRPA1 channel protein. OxPAPC activated calcium influx into a subset of mouse sensory neurons which were also sensitive to the TRPA1 agonist mustard oil. Neuronal OxPAPC responses were largely abolished in neurons isolated from TRPA1-deficient mice. Intraplantar injection of OxPAPC into the mouse hind paw induced acute pain and persistent mechanical hyperalgesia and this effect was attenuated by the TRPA1 inhibitor, HC-030031. More importantly, we found levels of OxPAPC to be significantly increased in inflamed tissue in a mouse model of chronic inflammatory pain, identified by the binding of an OxPAPC-specific antibody. These findings suggest that TRPA1 is a molecular target for OxPAPC and OxPAPC may contribute to chronic inflammatory pain through TRPA1 activation. Targeting against OxPAPC and TRPA1 signaling pathway may be promising in inflammatory pain treatment.