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HLA-A alleles including HLA-A29 affect the composition of the gut microbiome: a potential clue to the pathogenesis of birdshot retinochoroidopathy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Peter R. Sternes, Tammy M. Martin, Michael Paley, Sarah Diamond, Mark J. Asquith, Matthew A. Brown, James T. Rosenbaum

Original languageEnglish
Article number17636
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Published1 Dec 2020

King's Authors


Birdshot retinochoroidopathy occurs exclusively in individuals who are HLA-A29 positive. The mechanism to account for this association is unknown. The gut microbiome has been causally implicated in many immune-mediated diseases. We hypothesized that HLA-A29 would affect the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to a dysbiosis and immune-mediated eye disease. Fecal and intestinal biopsy samples were obtained from 107 healthy individuals from Portland, Oregon environs, 10 of whom were HLA-A29 positive, undergoing routine colonoscopy. Bacterial profiling was achieved via 16S rRNA metabarcoding. Publicly available whole meta-genome sequencing data from the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), consisting of 298 healthy controls mostly of US origin, were also interrogated. PERMANOVA and sparse partial least squares discriminant analysis (sPLSDA) demonstrated that subjects who were HLA-A29 positive differed in bacterial species composition (beta diversity) compared to HLA-A29 negative subjects in both the Portland (p = 0.019) and HMP cohorts (p = 0.0002). The Portland and HMP cohorts evidenced different subsets of bacterial species associated with HLA-A29 status, likely due to differences in the metagenomic techniques employed. The functional composition of the HMP cohort did not differ overall (p = 0.14) between HLA-A29 positive and negative subjects, although some distinct pathways such as heparan sulfate biosynthesis showed differences. As we and others have shown for various HLA alleles, the HLA allotype impacts the composition of the microbiome. We hypothesize that HLA-A29 may predispose chorioretinitis via an altered gut microbiome.

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