PerspectiveMicrobiology

Molecular messages in human microbiota

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Science  13 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6471, pp. 1309-1310
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz4164

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Summary

The roughly 1 trillion bacteria typically living in and on a human sense and respond to their environment with diffusible small molecules. Some of these molecules also affect their human hosts or neighboring microbes. There are numerous studies correlating bacterial populations, or changes in bacterial populations, with health or disease, but only a few of the molecules and mechanisms that underlie these correlations have been identified (13). Two systematic approaches to identify these bacterially produced molecules and their associated functions are described in this issue. On page 1332, Sugimoto et al. (4) describe how bioinformatic analysis of metagenomes—the collective genes of a microbial community—can reveal previously unknown bacterial metabolites that may function as antibiotics. On page 1331, Guo et al. (5) describe a gene-deletion approach that discovered the ability of known bacterial metabolites to affect human immune responses.

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