Putative Pathobionts in HLA-B27-Associated Spondyloarthropathy

Tejpal Gill, James T. Rosenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is a group of immune mediated inflammatory diseases with a strong association to the major histocompatibility (MHC) class I molecule, HLA-B27. Although the association between HLA-B27 and AS has been known for almost 50 years, the mechanisms underlying disease pathogenesis are elusive. Over the years, three hypotheses have been proposed to explain HLA-B27 and disease association: 1) HLA B27 presents arthritogenic peptides and thus creates a pathological immune response; 2) HLA-B27 misfolding causes endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress which activates the unfolded protein response (UPR); 3) HLA-B27 dimerizes on the cell surface and acts as a target for natural killer (NK) cells. None of these hypotheses explains SpA pathogenesis completely. Evidence supports the hypothesis that HLA-B27-related diseases have a microbial pathogenesis. In animal models of various SpAs, a germ-free environment abrogates disease development and colonizing these animals with gut commensal microbes can restore disease manifestations. The depth of microbial influence on SpA development has been realized due to our ability to characterize microbial communities in the gut using next-generation sequencing approaches. In this review, we will discuss various putative pathobionts in the pathogenesis of HLA-B27-associated diseases. We pursue whether a single pathobiont or a disruption of microbial community and function is associated with HLA-B27-related diseases. Furthermore, rather than a specific pathobiont, metabolic functions of various disease-associated microbes might be key. While the use of germ-free models of SpA have facilitated understanding the role of microbes in disease development, future studies with animal models that mimic diverse microbial communities instead of mono-colonization are indispensable. We discuss the causal mechanisms underlying disease pathogenesis including the role of these pathobionts on mucin degradation, mucosal adherence, and gut epithelial barrier disruption and inflammation. Finally, we review the various uses of microbes as therapeutic modalities including pre/probiotics, diet, microbial metabolites and fecal microbiota transplant. Unravelling these complex host-microbe interactions will lead to the development of new targets/therapies for alleviation of SpA and other HLA-B27 associated diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number586494
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Jan 18 2021


  • HLA-B27
  • dysbiosis
  • gut inflammation
  • pathobiont
  • spondyloarthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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