Gut Microbiota Profiling: Metabolomics Based Approach to Unravel Compounds Affecting Human Health

Front Microbiol. 2016 Jul 26;7:1144. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01144. eCollection 2016.


The gut microbiota is composed of a huge number of different bacteria, that produce a large amount of compounds playing a key role in microbe selection and in the construction of a metabolic signaling network. The microbial activities are affected by environmental stimuli leading to the generation of a wide number of compounds, that influence the host metabolome and human health. Indeed, metabolite profiles related to the gut microbiota can offer deep insights on the impact of lifestyle and dietary factors on chronic and acute diseases. Metagenomics, metaproteomics and metabolomics are some of the meta-omics approaches to study the modulation of the gut microbiota. Metabolomic research applied to biofluids allows to: define the metabolic profile; identify and quantify classes and compounds of interest; characterize small molecules produced by intestinal microbes; and define the biochemical pathways of metabolites. Mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy are the principal technologies applied to metabolomics in terms of coverage, sensitivity and quantification. Moreover, the use of biostatistics and mathematical approaches coupled with metabolomics play a key role in the extraction of biologically meaningful information from wide datasets. Metabolomic studies in gut microbiota-related research have increased, focusing on the generation of novel biomarkers, which could lead to the development of mechanistic hypotheses potentially applicable to the development of nutritional and personalized therapies.

Keywords: dietary habits; diseases; gut microbiota; metabolome; omic approach; state of health.

Publication types

  • Review