The impact of intestinal inflammation on the nutritional environment of the gut microbiota

Immunol Lett. 2014 Dec;162(2 Pt A):48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2014.04.014. Epub 2014 May 4.


The intestinal epithelium is a single cell barrier separating a sterile mucosal tissue from a large microbial community dominated by obligate anaerobic bacteria, which inhabit the gut lumen. To maintain mucosal integrity, any breach in the epithelial barrier needs to be met with an inflammatory host response designed to repel microbial intruders from the tissue, protect the mucosal surface and repair injuries to the epithelium. In addition, inflammation induces mechanisms of nutritional immunity, which limit the availability of metals in the intestinal lumen, thereby imposing new selective forces on microbial growth. However, the inflammatory host response also has important side effects. A by-product of producing reactive oxygen and nitrogen species aimed at eradicating microbial intruders is the luminal generation of exogenous electron acceptors. The presence of these electron acceptors creates a new metabolic niche that is filled by facultative anaerobic bacteria. Here we review the changes in microbial nutrient utilization that accompany intestinal inflammation and the consequent changes in the composition of gut-associated microbial communities.

Keywords: Anaerobic respiration; Intestinal inflammation; Microbiota; Nutritional immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Metals / metabolism
  • Microbiota / immunology
  • Nutritive Value / immunology
  • Oxygen / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Metals
  • Oxygen