Amino acid metabolism in intestinal bacteria: links between gut ecology and host health

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16(5):1768-86. doi: 10.2741/3820.


Bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract play an important role in the metabolism of dietary substances in the gut and extraintestinal tissues. Amino acids (AA) should be taken into consideration in the development of new strategies to enhance efficiency of nutrient utilization because they are not only major components in the diet and building blocks for protein but also regulate energy and protein homeostasis in organisms. The diversity of the AA-fermenting bacteria and their metabolic redundancy make them easier to survive and interact with their neighboring species or eukaryotic host during transition along GI tract. The outcomes of the interactions have important impacts on gut health and whole-body homeostasis. The AA-derived molecules produced by intestinal bacteria affect host health by regulating either host immunity and cell function or microbial composition and metabolism. Emerging evidence shows that dietary factors, such as protein, non-digestible carbohydrates, probiotics, synbiotics and phytochemicals, modulate AA utilization by gut microorganisms. Interdisciplinary research involving nutritionists and microbiologists is expected to rapidly expand knowledge about crucial roles for AA in gut ecology and host health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Ecology
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Probiotics / pharmacology
  • Synbiotics


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Dietary Proteins