Microbiota regulate intestinal absorption and metabolism of fatty acids in the zebrafish

Cell Host Microbe. 2012 Sep 13;12(3):277-88. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.08.003.


Regulation of intestinal dietary fat absorption is critical to maintaining energy balance. While intestinal microbiota clearly impact the host's energy balance, their role in intestinal absorption and extraintestinal metabolism of dietary fat is less clear. Using in vivo imaging of fluorescent fatty acid (FA) analogs delivered to gnotobiotic zebrafish hosts, we reveal that microbiota stimulate FA uptake and lipid droplet (LD) formation in the intestinal epithelium and liver. Microbiota increase epithelial LD number in a diet-dependent manner. The presence of food led to the intestinal enrichment of bacteria from the phylum Firmicutes. Diet-enriched Firmicutes and their products were sufficient to increase epithelial LD number, whereas LD size was increased by other bacterial types. Thus, different members of the intestinal microbiota promote FA absorption via distinct mechanisms. Diet-induced alterations in microbiota composition might influence fat absorption, providing mechanistic insight into how microbiota-diet interactions regulate host energy balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fluorescence
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Metagenome*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish / microbiology*


  • Fatty Acids