Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is an immune-mediated inflammatory liver disease with unclear pathogenesis. The gut microbiota and intestinal barrier play an essential role in AIH. Polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR) is a central component of mucosal immunity. Herein, we aimed to test the hypothesis that pIgR plays a pivotal role in maintaining gut microbiota homeostasis and gut barrier integrity in an AIH mouse model. The expression of intestinal pIgR shows the variation tendency of falling after rising with the aggravation of experimental AIH (EAH). The deletion of Pigr exacerbates liver damage in EAH. Furthermore, we identified a distinct microbiota profile of Pigr-deficient EAH mice, with a significant increased aboundance in the Oscillospiraceae family, particularly the Anaeromassilibacillus genus. Such a situation occurs because the loss of Pigr inhibits MEK/ERK, a key signal pathway whereby pIgR transports immunoglobulin A (IgA), resulting in reduced IgA secretion, which leads to the destruction of intestinal epithelial tight junction proteins and intestinal flora disturbance. Increased intestinal leakage causes increased translocation of bacteria to the liver, thus aggravating liver inflammation in EAH. Treatment with the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supernatant reverses liver damage in EAH mice but loses its protective effect without pIgR. Our study identifies that intestinal pIgR is a critical regulator of the adaptive response to S100-induced alterations in gut flora and the gut barrier function, which closely correlates with liver injury. Intestinal upregulation of pIgR could be a novel approach for treating AIH.
© 2023. The Author(s).