Therapeutic Effect of Bifidobacterium Administration on Experimental Autoimmune Myasthenia Gravis in Lewis Rats

Elena Rinaldi, Alessandra Consonni, Chiara Cordiglieri, Grazia Sacco, Camilla Crasà, Alessandra Fontana, Lorenzo Morelli, Marina Elli, Renato Mantegazza, Fulvio Baggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beneficial effects of probiotics on gut microbiota homeostasis and inflammatory immune responses suggested the investigation of their potential clinical efficacy in experimental models of autoimmune diseases. Indeed, administration of two bifidobacteria and lactobacilli probiotic strains prevented disease manifestations in the Lewis rat model of Myasthenia Gravis (EAMG). Here, we demonstrate the clinical efficacy of therapeutic administration of vital bifidobacteria (i.e., from EAMG onset). The mechanisms involved in immunomodulation were investigated with ex vivo and in vitro experiments. Improvement of EAMG symptoms was associated to decreased anti-rat AChR antibody levels, and differential expression of TGFβ and FoxP3 immunoregulatory transcripts in draining lymph nodes and spleen of treated-EAMG rats. Exposure of rat bone marrow-derived dendritic cells to bifidobacteria or lactobacilli strains upregulated toll-like receptor 2 mRNA expression, a key molecule involved in bacterium recognition via lipotheicoic acid. Live imaging experiments of AChR-specific effector T cells, co-cultured with BMDCs pre-exposed to bifidobacteria, demonstrated increased percentages of motile effector T cells, suggesting a hindered formation of TCR-peptide-MHC complex. Composition of gut microbiota was studied by 16S rRNA gene sequencing, and α and β diversity were determined in probiotic treated EAMG rats, with altered ratios between Tenericutes and Verrucomicrobia (phylum level), and Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae (family level). Moreover, the relative abundance of Akkermansia genus was found increased compared to healthy and probiotic treated EAMG rats. In conclusion, our findings confirms that the administration of vital bifidobacteria at EAMG onset has beneficial effects on disease progression; this study further supports preclinical research in human MG to evaluate probiotic efficacy as supplementary therapy in MG.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2949
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 19 2019


  • EAMG
  • immunoregulation
  • MG
  • probiotics
  • therapeutic treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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