Physiology

Gut bacteria may tell human cells what to do

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Science  06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 77-78
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6359.77-f

New studies are providing glimpses of the language through which bacteria in the human gut communicate with us. Cohen et al. analyzed the DNA from the human microbiome for members of the N-acyl synthase family of proteins—enzymes that catalyze synthesis of molecules that might serve as ligands for human heterotrimeric G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). More than 140 such genes were detected, and they produced molecules that bound and efficiently activated human GPCRs. Transfer of bacteria engineered to express such ligands into mice altered glucose metabolism to a similar extent as did a drug used to treat diabetes. Thus, bacteria, which communicate with each other through small excreted molecules, may communicate with their host in a similar manner—thereby offering opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

Nature 10.1038/nature23874 (2017).

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