Commensal Clostridia: leading players in the maintenance of gut homeostasis

Gut Pathog. 2013 Aug 13;5(1):23. doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-5-23.


The gastrointestinal tract is a complex and dynamic network where an intricate and mutualistic symbiosis modulates the relationship between the host and the microbiota in order to establish and ensure gut homeostasis. Commensal Clostridia consist of gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria in the phylum Firmicutes and make up a substantial part of the total bacteria in the gut microbiota. They start to colonize the intestine of breastfed infants during the first month of life and populate a specific region in the intestinal mucosa in close relationship with intestinal cells. This position allows them to participate as crucial factors in modulating physiologic, metabolic and immune processes in the gut during the entire lifespan, by interacting with the other resident microbe populations, but also by providing specific and essential functions. This review focus on what is currently known regarding the role of commensal Clostridia in the maintenance of overall gut function, as well as touch on their potential contribution in the unfavorable alteration of microbiota composition (dysbiosis) that has been implicated in several gastrointestinal disorders. Commensal Clostridia are strongly involved in the maintenance of overall gut function. This leads to important translational implications in regard to the prevention and treatment of dysbiosis, to drug efficacy and toxicity, and to the development of therapies that may modulate the composition of the microflora, capitalizing on the key role of commensal Clostridia, with the end goal of promoting gut health.