Centre for Biological Signalling Studies

Propionic acid shapes the multiple sclerosis disease course by an immunomodulatory mechanism

Duscha A, Gisevius B, Hirschberg S, Yissachar N, Stangl GI, Eilers E, Bader V, Haase S, Kaisler J, David C, Schneider R, Troisi R, Zent D, Hegelmaier T, Dokalis N, Gerstein S, Del Mare-Roumani S, Amidror S, Staszewski O, Poschmann G, Stühler K, Hirche F, Balogh A, Kempa S, Träger P, Zaiss MM, Holm JB, Massa MG, Nielsen HB, Faissner A, Lukas C, Gatermann SG, Scholz M, Przuntek H, Prinz M, Forslund SK, Winklhofer KF, Müller DN, Linker RA, Gold R, Haghikia A.

Cell. 2020;180(6):1067-1080.

Cell                 online article

Short-chain fatty acids are processed from indigestible dietary fibers by gut bacteria and have immunomodulatory properties. Here, we investigate propionic acid (PA) in multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease. Serum and feces of subjects with MS exhibited significantly reduced PA amounts compared with controls, particularly after the first relapse. In a proof-of-concept study, we supplemented PA to therapy-naive MS patients and as an add-on to MS immunotherapy. After 2 weeks of PA intake, we observed a significant and sustained increase of functionally competent regulatory T (Treg) cells, whereas Th1 and Th17 cells decreased significantly. Post-hoc analyses revealed a reduced annual relapse rate, disability stabilization, and reduced brain atrophy after 3 years of PA intake. Our findings suggest that PA can serve as a potent immunomodulatory supplement to MS drugs.