Role of the gut microbiota in host appetite control: bacterial growth to animal feeding behaviour

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2017 Jan;13(1):11-25. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2016.150. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


The life of all animals is dominated by alternating feelings of hunger and satiety - the main involuntary motivations for feeding-related behaviour. Gut bacteria depend fully on their host for providing the nutrients necessary for their growth. The intrinsic ability of bacteria to regulate their growth and to maintain their population within the gut suggests that gut bacteria can interfere with molecular pathways controlling energy balance in the host. The current model of appetite control is based mainly on gut-brain signalling and the animal's own needs to maintain energy homeostasis; an alternative model might also involve bacteria-host communications. Several bacterial components and metabolites have been shown to stimulate intestinal satiety pathways; at the same time, their production depends on bacterial growth cycles. This short-term bacterial growth-linked modulation of intestinal satiety can be coupled with long-term regulation of appetite, controlled by the neuropeptidergic circuitry in the hypothalamus. Indeed, several bacterial products are detected in the systemic circulation, which might act directly on hypothalamic neurons. This Review analyses the data relevant to possible involvement of the gut bacteria in the regulation of host appetite and proposes an integrative homeostatic model of appetite control that includes energy needs of both the host and its gut bacteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology*
  • Humans