Gut cell metabolism shapes the microbiome

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Science  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 548-549
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2202

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Gut microbes are key partners in host defense against potential pathogens (1). This might be achieved through cross-talk between gut bacteria, epithelial cells lining the gut (colonocytes), and immune cells (2). Part of this cross-talk involves metabolites derived from the bacteria, such as the short-chain fatty acid butyrate. This can bind to specific G protein-coupled receptors in colonocytes and immune cells, leading to antimicrobial immune responses (3). However, what if this cross-talk were not the full story? On page 570 of this issue, Byndloss et al. (4) show that butyrate instructs colonocytes to consume oxygen through the β-oxidation metabolic pathway and consequently protects the host against the expansion of potentially pathogenic bacteria that can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases.