Intestinal bacteria are required for development of gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT), which mediate a variety of host immune functions, such as mucosal immunity and oral tolerance. In rabbits, the intestinal microflora are also required for developing the preimmune Ab repertoire by promoting somatic diversification of Ig genes in B cells that have migrated to GALT. We studied the mechanism of bacteria-induced GALT development. Bacteria were introduced into rabbits in which the appendix had been rendered germfree by microsurgery (we refer to these rabbits as germfree-appendix rabbits). We then identified specific members of the intestinal flora that promote GALT development. The combination of Bacteroides fragilis and Bacillus subtilis consistently promoted GALT development and led to development of the preimmune Ab repertoire, as shown by an increase in somatic diversification of VDJ-Cμ genes in appendix B cells. Neither species alone consistently induced GALT development, nor did Clostridium subterminale, Escherichia coli, or Staphylococcus epidermidis. B. fragilis, which by itself is immunogenic, did not promote GALT development; hence, GALT development in rabbits does not appear to be the result of an Ag-specific immune response. To identify bacterial pathways required for GALT development, we introduced B. fragilis along with stress-response mutants of B. subtilis into germfree-appendix rabbits. We identified two Spo0A-controlled stress responses, sporulation and secretion of the protein YqxM, which are required for GALT development. We conclude that specific members of the commensal, Intestinal flora drive GALT development through a specific subset of stress responses.
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