Harmless gut bacteria may play a significant role in activating a range of genes that affect the metabolism of the body, according to the findings reported in Science.
Researchers from Washington University, St Louis, USA, told how they tested the effect of a microbe, Bacteroides thetaiotamicron, on the GI tracts of laboratory mice.
They studied the animals using DNA microarrays and laser capture dissection.
The research showed that the microbe activated intestinal genes involved in the absorption and metabolism of sugars and fats, and, also, genes that controlled the integrity of the cellular barrier of the intestine.
It also affected genes that regulate the metabolism of toxic compounds, and genes that control the formation of blood vessels and the development of the gut in babies.
|Roles of intestinal genes activated by bacteria:|
- Sugar and fat absorption and metabolism
- Integrity of intestinal cellular barrier
- Metabolism of toxic compounds
- Blood vessel formation and gut development in babies
Researcher Professor Jeffrey Gordon said that the research could ultimately shed light on the development of a range of gastro-intestinal diseases.
He said, "One of our findings is that microbes are able to regulate intestinal genes involved in breaking down foods.
"This raises the question of whether there are variations in the types of intestinal microbes between individual humans, and how such differences affect our nutritional status, our health, and our predisposition to certain diseases."
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