American Association for Cancer Research

Data from Multi-omics Analysis of a Fecal Microbiota Transplantation Trial Identifies Novel Aspects of Acute GVHD Pathogenesis

Posted on 2024-06-10 - 14:20

Acute GVHD (aGVHD) is a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT) associated with gut microbiota disruptions. However, whether therapeutic microbiota modulation prevents aGVHD is unknown. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of third-party fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) administered at the peak of microbiota injury in 100 patients with acute myeloid leukemia receiving induction chemotherapy and alloHCT recipients. Despite improvements in microbiome diversity, expansion of commensals, and shrinkage of potential pathogens, aGVHD occurred more frequently after FMT than placebo. Although this unexpected finding could be explained by clinical differences between the two arms, we asked whether a microbiota explanation might be also present. To this end, we performed multi-omics analysis of preintervention and postintervention gut microbiome and serum metabolome. We found that postintervention expansion of Faecalibacterium, a commensal genus with gut-protective and anti-inflammatory properties under homeostatic conditions, predicted a higher risk for aGVHD. Faecalibacterium expansion occurred predominantly after FMT and was due to engraftment of unique donor taxa, suggesting that donor Faecalibacterium-derived antigens might have stimulated allogeneic immune cells. Faecalibacterium and ursodeoxycholic acid (an anti-inflammatory secondary bile acid) were negatively correlated, offering an alternative mechanistic explanation. In conclusion, we demonstrate context dependence of microbiota effects where a normally beneficial bacteria may become detrimental in disease. While FMT is a broad, community-level intervention, it may need precision engineering in ecologically complex settings where multiple perturbations (e.g., antibiotics, intestinal damage, alloimmunity) are concurrently in effect.


Post-FMT expansion of Faecalibacterium, associated with donor microbiota engraftment, predicted a higher risk for aGVHD in alloHCT recipients. Although Faecalibacterium is a commensal genus with gut-protective and anti-inflammatory properties under homeostatic conditions, our findings suggest that it may become pathogenic in the setting of FMT after alloHCT. Our results support a future trial with precision engineering of the FMT product used as GVHD prophylaxis after alloHCT.


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