Fecal Host Transcriptomics for Non-invasive Human Mucosal Immune Profiling: Proof of Concept in Clostridium difficile Infection

Robert Schlaberg, Amanda Barrett, Kornelia Edes, Michael Graves, Litty Paul, Jenna Rychert, Bert K. Lopansri, Daniel T. Leung

Abstract


Background: Host factors play an important role in pathogenesis and disease outcome in Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), and characterization of these responses could uncover potential host biomarkers to complement existing microbe-based diagnostics.

Methods: We extracted RNA from fecal samples of patients with CDI and profiled human mRNA using amplicon-based next-generation sequencing (NGS). We compared the fecal host mRNA transcript expression profiles of patients with CDI to controls with non-CDI diarrhea.

Results: We found that the ratio of human actin gamma 1 (ACTG1) to 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) was highly correlated with NGS quality as measured by percentage of reads on target. Patients with CDI could be differentiated from those with non-CDI diarrhea based on their fecal mRNA expression profiles using principal component analysis. Among the most differentially expressed genes were ones related to immune response (IL23A, IL34) and actin-cytoskeleton function (TNNT1, MYL4, SMTN, MYBPC3, all adjusted P-values <1×10-3).

Conclusions: In this proof-of-concept study, we used host fecal transcriptomics for non-invasive profiling of the mucosal immune response in CDI. We identified differentially expressed genes with biological plausibility based on animal and cell culture models. This demonstrates the potential of fecal transcriptomics to uncover host-based biomarkers for enteric infections.


Keywords


Clostridium difficile; host transcriptomics; fecal transcriptomics; actin-cytoskeleton; mucosal immune response

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