Although the association between the microbiome and IBD and liver diseases is known, the cause and effect remain elusive. By connecting human microphysiological systems of the gut, liver, and circulating Treg and Th17 cells, we created a multi-organ model of ulcerative colitis (UC) ex vivo. The approach shows microbiome-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) to either improve or worsen UC severity, depending on the involvement of effector CD4 T cells. Using multiomics, we found SCFAs increased production of ketone bodies, glycolysis, and lipogenesis, while markedly reducing innate immune activation of the UC gut. However, during acute T cell-mediated inflammation, SCFAs exacerbated CD4 T cell-effector function, partially through metabolic reprograming, leading to gut barrier disruption and hepatic injury. These paradoxical findings underscore the emerging utility of human physiomimetic technology in combination with systems immunology to study causality and the fundamental entanglement of immunity, metabolism, and tissue homeostasis.
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