Aging amplifies a gut microbiota immunogenic signature linked to heightened inflammation

Maria Elisa Caetano-Silva, Akriti Shrestha, Audrey F. Duff, Danica Kontic, Patricia C. Brewster, Mikaela C. Kasperek, Chia Hao Lin, Derek A. Wainwright, Diego Hernandez-Saavedra, Jeffrey A Woods, Michael T. Bailey, Thomas W. Buford, Jacob Matthew Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging is associated with low-grade inflammation that increases the risk of infection and disease, yet the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Gut microbiota composition shifts with age, harboring microbes with varied immunogenic capacities. We hypothesized the gut microbiota acts as an active driver of low-grade inflammation during aging. Microbiome patterns in aged mice strongly associated with signs of bacterial-induced barrier disruption and immune infiltration, including marked increased levels of circulating lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding protein (LBP) and colonic calprotectin. Ex vivo immunogenicity assays revealed that both colonic contents and mucosa of aged mice harbored increased capacity to activate toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) whereas TLR5 signaling was unchanged. We found patterns of elevated innate inflammatory signaling (colonic Il6, Tnf, and Tlr4) and endotoxemia (circulating LBP) in young germ-free mice after 4 weeks of colonization with intestinal contents from aged mice compared with young counterparts, thus providing a direct link between aging-induced shifts in microbiota immunogenicity and host inflammation. Additionally, we discovered that the gut microbiota of aged mice exhibited unique responses to a broad-spectrum antibiotic challenge (Abx), with sustained elevation in Escherichia (Proteobacteria) and altered TLR5 immunogenicity 7 days post-Abx cessation. Together, these data indicate that old age results in a gut microbiota that differentially acts on TLR signaling pathways of the innate immune system. We found that these age-associated microbiota immunogenic signatures are less resilient to challenge and strongly linked to host inflammatory status. Gut microbiota immunogenic signatures should be thus considered as critical factors in mediating chronic inflammatory diseases disproportionally impacting older populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAging Cell
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 9 2024


  • aging
  • antibiotics
  • inflammation
  • microbiome
  • TLR4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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