Signals from the gut microbiota to distant organs in physiology and disease

Nat Med. 2016 Oct;22(10):1079-1089. doi: 10.1038/nm.4185. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

Abstract

The ecosystem of the human gut consists of trillions of bacteria forming a bioreactor that is fueled by dietary macronutrients to produce bioactive compounds. These microbiota-derived metabolites signal to distant organs in the body, which enables the gut bacteria to connect to the immune and hormone system, to the brain (the gut-brain axis) and to host metabolism, as well as other functions of the host. This microbe-host communication is essential to maintain vital functions of the healthy host. Recently, however, the gut microbiota has been associated with a number of diseases, ranging from obesity and inflammatory diseases to behavioral and physiological abnormalities associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. In this Review, we will discuss microbiota-host cross-talk and intestinal microbiome signaling to extraintestinal organs. We will review mechanisms of how this communication might contribute to host physiology and discuss how misconfigured signaling might contribute to different diseases.

Publication types

  • Review