Gut Microbiota Contribute to Age-Related Changes in Skeletal Muscle Size, Composition, and Function: Biological Basis for a Gut-Muscle Axis

Calcif Tissue Int. 2018 Apr;102(4):433-442. doi: 10.1007/s00223-017-0345-5. Epub 2017 Oct 20.


Skeletal muscle is a highly plastic tissue that plays a central role in human health and disease. Aging is associated with a decrease in muscle mass and function (sarcopenia) that is associated with a loss of independence and reduced quality of life. Gut microbiota, the bacteria, archaea, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes residing in the gastrointestinal tract are emerging as a potential contributor to age-associated muscle decline. Specifically, advancing age is characterized by a dysbiosis of gut microbiota that is associated with increased intestinal permeability, facilitating the passage of endotoxin and other microbial products (e.g., indoxyl sulfate) into the circulation. Upon entering the circulation, LPS and other microbial factors promote inflammatory signaling and skeletal muscle changes that are hallmarks of the aging muscle phenotype. This review will summarize existing literature suggesting cross-talk between gut microbiota and skeletal muscle health, with emphasis on the significance of this axis for mediating changes in aging skeletal muscle size, composition, and function.

Keywords: Aging; Gut microbiota; Inflammation; Sarcopenia; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors*
  • Animals
  • Biological Products
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / microbiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*


  • Biological Products