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Multi 'Omics Analysis of Intestinal Tissue in Ankylosing Spondylitis Identifies Alterations in the Tryptophan Metabolism Pathway

Adam Berlinberg

Mar 3, 2021

Intestinal microbial dysbiosis, intestinal inflammation, and Th17 immunity are all linked to the pathophysiology of spondyloarthritis (SpA); however, the mechanisms linking them remain unknown. One potential hypothesis suggests that the dysbiotic gut microbiome as a whole produces metabolites that influence human immune cells. To identify potential disease-relevant, microbiome-produced metabolites, we performed metabolomics screening and shotgun metagenomics on paired colon biopsies and fecal samples, respectively, from subjects with axial SpA (axSpA, N=21), Crohn’s disease (CD, N=27), and Crohn’s-axSpA overlap (CD-axSpA, N=12), as well as controls (HC, N=24). Using LC-MS based metabolomics of 4 non-inflamed pinch biopsies of the distal colon from subjects, we identified significant alterations in tryptophan pathway metabolites, including an expansion of indole-3-acetate (IAA) in axSpA and CD-axSpA compared to HC and CD and indole-3-acetaldehyde (I3Ald) in axSpA and CD-axSpA but not CD compared to HC, suggesting possible specificity to the development of axSpA. We then performed shotgun metagenomics of fecal samples to characterize gut microbial dysbiosis across these disease states. In spite of no significant differences in alpha-diversity among the 4 groups, our results confirmed differences in gene abundances of numerous enzymes involved in tryptophan metabolism. Specifically, gene abundance of indolepyruvate decarboxylase, which generates IAA and I3Ald, was significantly elevated in individuals with axSpA while gene abundances in HC demonstrated a propensity towards tryptophan synthesis. Such genetic changes were not observed in CD, again suggesting disease specificity for axSpA. Given the emerging role of tryptophan and its metabolites in immune function, altogether these data indicate that tryptophan metabolism into I3Ald and then IAA is one mechanism by which the gut microbiome potentially influences the development of axSpA.

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