The microbiota, and the genes that comprise its microbiome, play key roles in human health. Host-microbe interactions affect immunity, metabolism, development, and behavior, and dysbiosis of gut bacteria contributes to disease. Despite advances in correlating changes in the microbiota with various conditions, specific mechanisms of host-microbiota signaling remain largely elusive. We discuss the synthesis of microbial metabolites, their absorption, and potential physiological effects on the host. We propose that the effects of specialized metabolites may explain present knowledge gaps in linking the gut microbiota to biological host mechanisms during initial colonization, and in health and disease.
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