Developing a metagenomic view of xenobiotic metabolism

Pharmacol Res. 2013 Mar;69(1):21-31. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2012.07.009. Epub 2012 Aug 9.


The microbes residing in and on the human body influence human physiology in many ways, particularly through their impact on the metabolism of xenobiotic compounds, including therapeutic drugs, antibiotics, and diet-derived bioactive compounds. Despite the importance of these interactions and the many possibilities for intervention, microbial xenobiotic metabolism remains a largely underexplored component of pharmacology. Here, we discuss the emerging evidence for both direct and indirect effects of the human gut microbiota on xenobiotic metabolism, and the initial links that have been made between specific compounds, diverse members of this complex community, and the microbial genes responsible. Furthermore, we highlight the many parallels to the now well-established field of environmental bioremediation, and the vast potential to leverage emerging metagenomic tools to shed new light on these important microbial biotransformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Metagenome / genetics*
  • Metagenomics / methods
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*


  • Xenobiotics