Beneficial metabolic effects of a probiotic via butyrate-induced GLP-1 hormone secretion

J Biol Chem. 2013 Aug 30;288(35):25088-25097. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.452516. Epub 2013 Jul 8.


Obesity and diabetes are associated with excess caloric intake and reduced energy expenditure resulting in a negative energy balance. The incidence of diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, and childhood diabetes and obesity are increasing alarmingly. Therefore, it is important to develop safe, easily deliverable, and economically viable treatment alternatives for these diseases. Here, we provide data supporting the candidacy of probiotics as such a therapeutic modality against obesity and diabetes. Probiotics are live bacteria that colonize the gastrointestinal tract and impart beneficial effects for health. However, their widespread prescription as medical therapies is limited primarily because of the paucity of our understanding of their mechanism of action. Here, we demonstrate that the administration of a probiotic, VSL#3, prevented and treated obesity and diabetes in several mouse models. VSL#3 suppressed body weight gain and insulin resistance via modulation of the gut flora composition. VSL#3 promoted the release of the hormone GLP-1, resulting in reduced food intake and improved glucose tolerance. The VSL#3-induced changes were associated with an increase in the levels of a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), butyrate. Using a cell culture system, we demonstrate that butyrate stimulated the release of GLP-1 from intestinal L-cells, thereby providing a plausible mechanism for VSL#3 action. These findings suggest that probiotics such as VSL#3 can modulate the gut microbiota-SCFA-hormone axis. Moreover, our results indicate that probiotics are of potential therapeutic utility to counter obesity and diabetes.

Keywords: Diabetes; GLP-1; Gut Flora; Leptin; Metabolism; Obesity; Probiotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Butyrates / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*


  • Butyrates
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1