The presentation of protein antigens on the cell surface by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules coordinates vertebrate adaptive immune responses, thereby mediating susceptibility to a variety of autoimmune and infectious diseases.
The composition of symbiotic microbial communities (the microbiota) is influenced by host immunity and can have a profound impact on host physiology.
Researchers use an MHC congenic mouse model to test the hypothesis that genetic variation at MHC genes among individuals mediates susceptibility to disease by controlling microbiota composition.
They find that MHC genotype significantly influences antibody responses against commensals in the gut, and that these responses are correlated with the establishment of unique microbial communities.
Transplantation experiments in germfree mice indicate that MHC-mediated differences in microbiota composition are sufficient to explain susceptibility to enteric infection.
These findings indicate that MHC polymorphisms contribute to defining an individual’s unique microbial fingerprint that influences health.