Immunization against poly-N-acetylglucosamine reduces neutrophil activation and GVHD while sparing microbial diversity

Huelsduenker J., Thomas O. S. , Haring E., Unger S., Nunez N. G. , Tugues S., ...More

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, vol.116, no.41, pp.20700-20706, 2019 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


Microbial invasion into the intestinal mucosa after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) triggers neutrophil activation and requires antibiotic interventions to prevent sepsis. However, antibiotics lead to a loss of microbiota diversity, which is connected to a higher incidence of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). Antimicrobial therapies that eliminate invading bacteria and reduce neutrophil-mediated damage without reducing the diversity of the microbiota are therefore highly desirable. A potential solution would be the use of antimicrobial antibodies that target invading pathogens, ultimately leading to their elimination by innate immune cells. In a mouse model of aGVHD, we investigated the potency of active and passive immunization against the conserved microbial surface polysaccharide poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) that is expressed on numerous pathogens. Treatment with monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies to PNAG (anti-PNAG) or vaccination against PNAG reduced aGVHD-related mortality. Anti-PNAG treatment did not change the intestinal microbial diversity as determined by 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing. Anti-PNAG treatment reduced myeloperoxidase activation and proliferation of neutrophil granulocytes (neutrophils) in the ileum of mice developing GVHD. In vitro, anti-PNAG treatment showed high antimicrobial activity. The functional role of neutrophils was confirmed by using neutrophil-deficient LysM(cre) Mcl1(fl/fl) mice that had no survival advantage under anti-PNAG treatment. In summary, the control of invading bacteria by anti-PNAG treatment could be a novel approach to reduce the uncontrolled neutrophil activation that promotes early GVHD and opens a new avenue to interfere with aGVHD without affecting commensal intestinal microbial diversity.