Chemical transformation of xenobiotics by the human gut microbiota

Science. 2017 Jun 23;356(6344):eaag2770. doi: 10.1126/science.aag2770.


The human gut microbiota makes key contributions to the metabolism of ingested compounds (xenobiotics), transforming hundreds of dietary components, industrial chemicals, and pharmaceuticals into metabolites with altered activities, toxicities, and lifetimes within the body. The chemistry of gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism is often distinct from that of host enzymes. Despite their important consequences for human biology, the gut microbes, genes, and enzymes involved in xenobiotic metabolism are poorly understood. Linking these microbial transformations to enzymes and elucidating their biological effects is undoubtedly challenging. However, recent studies demonstrate that integrating traditional and emerging technologies can enable progress toward this goal. Ultimately, a molecular understanding of gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism will guide personalized medicine and nutrition, inform toxicology risk assessment, and improve drug discovery and development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Food
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Research / trends
  • Xenobiotics / chemistry
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Xenobiotics