Obesity and Asthma: Microbiome-Metabolome Interactions

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2016 May;54(5):609-17. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2016-0052PS.


Obesity is a risk factor for asthma, but obese subjects with asthma respond poorly to standard asthma drugs. Obesity also alters gut bacterial community structure. Obesity-related changes in gut bacteria contribute to weight gain and other obesity-related conditions, including insulin resistance and systemic inflammation. Here, we review the rationale for the hypothesis that obesity-related changes in gut bacteria may also play a role in obesity-related asthma. The metabolomes of the liver, serum, urine, and adipose tissue are altered in obesity. Gut bacteria produce a large number of metabolites, which can reach the blood and circulate to other organs, and gut bacteria-derived metabolites have been shown to contribute to disease processes outside the gastrointestinal tract, including cardiovascular disease. Here, we describe the potential roles for two such classes of metabolites in obesity-related asthma: short-chain fatty acids and bile acids. Greater understanding of the role of microbiota in obesity-related asthma could lead to novel microbiota-based treatments for these hard-to-treat patients.

Keywords: airway; bile acids; immune system; short-chain fatty acids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Metabolome*
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / microbiology*