Journal of biochemistry. 2018;163(2):105-112
Plain language summary
Trillions of microbes live symbiotically in and on an individual human being, most of them inside the digestive tract and communally known as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a vital role in the individual host’s health, not only by helping digest food and harvest energy, but also by regulating immune development and influencing gene expression. Diet and factors, such as infections and the use of antibiotics, can alter the balance of the microbiome and lead to various outcomes. This paper reviewed the current understanding of the ways in which the gut microbiome is capable of altering the host’s gene expression through microbial signals, including metabolites, bile acids, inflammation and altered composition. The studies highlighted in the paper show that gut microbes communicate both with local cells in the intestines and with more distant organs, such as the liver and the cardiovascular system. Through this communication, they can regulate the expression of immune cells, cancer cells, enzymes and inflammation-related molecules. The authors concluded that these interactions, or the crosstalk between the microbes and the host, demonstrate a crucial role of the gut microbiome in the host’s response to environmental signals. However, many of the mechanisms are still unclear, so further studies are needed to explain specific microbe-derived signals, affecting host gene expression, and to deepen our understanding of how lifestyle, health status and environmental exposures, such as antibiotics, regulate the microbiome and its influence.