Perturbations of the composition and function of the gut microbiota have been associated with metabolic disorders including obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Studies on mice have demonstrated several underlying mechanisms including host signalling through bacterial lipopolysaccharides derived from the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria, bacterial fermentation of dietary fibres to short-chain fatty acids and bacterial modulation of bile acids. On top of this, an increased permeability of the intestinal epithelium may lead to increased absorption of macromolecules from the intestinal content resulting in systemic immune responses, low-grade inflammation and altered signalling pathways influencing lipid and glucose metabolism. While mechanistic studies on mice collectively support a causal role of the gut microbiota in metabolic diseases, the majority of studies in humans are correlative of nature and thus hinder causal inferences. Importantly, several factors known to influence the risk of type 2 diabetes, e.g. diet and age, have also been linked to alterations in the gut microbiota complicating the interpretation of correlative studies. However, based upon the available evidence, it is hypothesised that the gut microbiota may mediate or modulate the influence of lifestyle factors triggering development of type 2 diabetes. Thus, the aim of this review is to critically discuss the potential role of the gut microbiota in the pathophysiology and pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.
© 2015 European Society of Endocrinology.