In addition to their bioenergetic intracellular function, several classical metabolites act as extracellular signaling molecules activating cell-surface G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), similar to hormones and neurotransmitters. "Signaling metabolites" generated from nutrients or by gut microbiota target primarily enteroendocrine, neuronal, and immune cells in the lamina propria of the gut mucosa and the liver and, through these tissues, the rest of the body. In contrast, metabolites from the intermediary metabolism act mainly as metabolic stress-induced autocrine and paracrine signals in adipose tissue, the liver, and the endocrine pancreas. Importantly, distinct metabolite GPCRs act as efficient pro- and anti-inflammatory regulators of key immune cells, and signaling metabolites may thus function as important drivers of the low-grade inflammation associated with insulin resistance and obesity. The concept of key metabolites as ligands for specific GPCRs has broadened our understanding of metabolic signaling significantly and provides a number of novel potential drug targets.
Keywords: GPCR; adipose tissue; autocrine; beta cell; gut microbiota; low-grade inflammation; metabolic stress; metabolite signaling; nutrient sensing; paracrine.
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