Fatty Acid Pentanoate May Be Effective Treatment for MS, Other Autoimmune Diseases, Mouse Study Suggests

Fatty Acid Pentanoate May Be Effective Treatment for MS, Other Autoimmune Diseases, Mouse Study Suggests

Increased production of an anti-inflammatory molecule called interleukin (IL)-10, and suppression of a subtype of immune T-cells, may mean that a fatty acid called pentanoate is effective against inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research in mice.

The study, “The short-chain fatty acid pentanoate suppresses autoimmunity by modulating the metabolic-epigenetic crosstalk in lymphocytes,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) — fatty acids with less than six carbon atoms — are the major nutrients produced by bacterial fermentation in the gut. They have been shown to induce the differentiation of a subtype of immune cells called regulatory T-cells, and improve the gut’s barrier function, which may protect from inflammation and ease autoimmunity.

Work in mice suggested that food containing SCFAs may effectively treat severe immunological defects. However, they also may carry adverse side effects, such as tissue-specific inflammation and bacterial colonization of the gut epithelium (the gut’s surface layer) by Escherichia coli.

Now, a team from Germany, the U.S., and Israel evaluated whether the SCFA pentanoate may be a viable therapy for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. For this purpose, the investigators used the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mouse model of MS, along with a range of molecular biology and imaging techniques.

The Multiple Sclerosis News Today forums are a place to connect with other patients, share tips and talk about the latest research. Check them out today!

Results first showed that, similar to SCFAs acetate, propionate, and butyrate, pentanoate was present in the gut of wild-type (normal) mice, but not of germ-free animals — a model to study the effects of gut microbes on gastrointestinal health.

The team observed that pentanoate blocked the proliferation of T helper (Th) 17 lymphocytes — key cells in tissue inflammation and destruction — and their production of IL-17A, a molecule implicated in chronic inflammation. This was associated with increased expression of the Il10  gene, which codes for IL-10, and suppression of most of Th17-associated genes.

In mice, pentanoate eased EAE severity, and reduced the number of immune T-cells expressing the cell surface markers CD4 and CD8 in the central nervous system (CNS) — brain and spinal cord. Pentanoate also lowered the levels of cells containing IL-17A and interferon (IFN)-gamma, an immune molecule implicated in MS.

In the CNS of germ-free mice, pentanoate eased inflammation induced by bacteria, and reduced the number and frequency of Th17 cells. Pentanoate also blocked the generation of gut Th17 cells in these mice.

Researchers then showed that pentanoate effectively inhibited the activity of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDACs), a mechanism used by other SCFAs to induce epigenetic changes — referring to changers in gene expression, rather than in the gene itself — in immune cells.

The effects of pentanoate were explored in the presence of 2-DG, which blocks the breakdown of glucose, to evaluate whether metabolic changes might regulate the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory molecules. This led to a complete blockade of pentanoate-induced production of IL-10.

When analyzing molecular mechanisms, investigators found that pentanoate activated the mTOR pathway, which regulates the growth, survival, and proliferation of immune T- and B-cells. Pentanoate also increased the levels of ATP — the molecular “currency” of energy — and further boosted IL-10 production in the presence of glucose in Th17 cells.

These results indicated that glucose breakdown controls the increased levels of IL-10, the team noted. Also, the findings showed that pentanoate is converted into acetyl-CoA, a key molecule in cellular metabolism and energy production.

In regulatory B-cells (Bregs) of the spleen, pentanoate also increased the production of IL-10. The fatty acid decreased the expression of genes related to cell death and, in contrast, increased the expression of those implicated in cell survival. Treatment with pentanoate also boosted glucose breakdown and activated the mTOR pathway.

Mice transferred with Bregs after treatment with pentanoate showed prevention of weight loss, lessened disease-related immune changes, and lower numbers of CD4-containing T-cells in the gut and in lymph nodes. These mice also revealed no symptoms of autoimmune disease due to the lack of infiltrating, disease-related lymphocytes in the CNS.

The team showed that blockers of the mTOR pathway markedly reduced the benefits of pentanoate in EAE.

“Taken together, by enhancing IL-10 production and suppressing Th17 cells, the SCFA pentanoate might be of therapeutic relevance for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases,” the researchers wrote.

According to the team, pentanoate may become a low-cost and well-tolerated therapy in patients with MS and other Th17-mediated autoimmune disorders.


  1. john soper says:

    Feed up with hearing all this talk about getting a cure for MS, we never hear any conclusive reports , ie this one or that one works. Take the attached report regarding Pentanoete, it will be put in the filling cabinet and forgot about.

    • Lianne says:

      I understand your frustration and since Pentanoate is “low cost” that’s another factor that will make it unlikely to be made available.

  2. Joan Quilter says:

    I, too, am fed up with all these mouse studies. Nothing is ever conclusive; it’s, always, “may be”, “suggests”, “could be”, etc., etc. MS is no longer an “orphan disease”. Millions of people suffer from it. The American Brain Foundation says that every 60 minutes, someone in the U.S. is being diagnosed with MS. This is an epidemic, and deserves more funding for more research.

  3. Christopher says:

    You can be fed up, but don’t be with the research. Studies with mice and rats are because we can’t morally and ethically experiment on people. There are new ways of doing diagnostics, as well as actual therapies, being developed every day by hundreds if not thousands of scientists. Just throwing more money at MS isn’t going to change how complicated it is to deal with and figure out. It is a condition that has many factors related to a few different physiological systems in the body–it’s not just an immune system dysfunction.

  4. Susan says:

    The reason why there will never be a cure is that the pharmaceutical companies will not profit. So why is it called the food and drug administration. What is going in the food and why are the drug companies profiting from all of the illnesses. It’s right in our face! I will never forget when I received The probable diagnosis 25 years ago, “you have to be your own doctor“… Obviously my doctor at the time knew what he iwas talking about… Alternative holistic methods are the answer… supplements Whole Foods, non-gluten, no sugar, vegan, the list goes on … doing everything healthy , LDN, THC, CBD oil, cannabis, physical therapy, Medical massage, Personal development, mindfulness, Happiness, Yoga, Eastern medicine, acupuncture, meditation, spiritual healing, chiropractic, holistic wellness!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This