Evidence, mostly from experimental models, has accumulated, indicating that modifications of bacterial metabolite concentrations in the large intestine luminal content, notably after changes in the dietary composition, may have important beneficial or deleterious consequences for the colonic epithelial cell metabolism and physiology in terms of mitochondrial energy metabolism, reactive oxygen species production, gene expression, DNA integrity, proliferation, and viability. Recent data suggest that for some bacterial metabolites, like hydrogen sulfide and butyrate, the extent of their oxidation in colonocytes affects their capacity to modulate gene expression in these cells. Modifications of the luminal bacterial metabolite concentrations may, in addition, affect the colonic pH and osmolarity, which are known to affect colonocyte biology per se. Although the colonic epithelium appears able to face, up to some extent, changes in its luminal environment, notably by developing a metabolic adaptive response, some of these modifications may likely affect the homeostatic process of colonic epithelium renewal and the epithelial barrier function. The contribution of major changes in the colonocyte luminal environment in pathological processes, like mucosal inflammation, preneoplasia, and neoplasia, although suggested by several studies, remains to be precisely evaluated, particularly in a long-term perspective.
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