Development of a gut microbe-targeted nonlethal therapeutic to inhibit thrombosis potential

Nat Med. 2018 Sep;24(9):1407-1417. doi: 10.1038/s41591-018-0128-1. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is a gut microbiota-derived metabolite that enhances both platelet responsiveness and in vivo thrombosis potential in animal models, and TMAO plasma levels predict incident atherothrombotic event risks in human clinical studies. TMAO is formed by gut microbe-dependent metabolism of trimethylamine (TMA) moiety-containing nutrients, which are abundant in a Western diet. Here, using a mechanism-based inhibitor approach targeting a major microbial TMA-generating enzyme pair, CutC and CutD (CutC/D), we developed inhibitors that are potent, time-dependent, and irreversible and that do not affect commensal viability. In animal models, a single oral dose of a CutC/D inhibitor significantly reduced plasma TMAO levels for up to 3 d and rescued diet-induced enhanced platelet responsiveness and thrombus formation, without observable toxicity or increased bleeding risk. The inhibitor selectively accumulated within intestinal microbes to millimolar levels, a concentration over 1-million-fold higher than needed for a therapeutic effect. These studies reveal that mechanism-based inhibition of gut microbial TMA and TMAO production reduces thrombosis potential, a critical adverse complication in heart disease. They also offer a generalizable approach for the selective nonlethal targeting of gut microbial enzymes linked to host disease limiting systemic exposure of the inhibitor in the host.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Choline / pharmacology
  • Diet
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / drug effects
  • Hexanols / pharmacology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / metabolism
  • Platelet Aggregation / drug effects
  • Thrombosis / microbiology*


  • Hexanols
  • 3,3-dimethylbutan-1-ol
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating
  • trimethylamine dehydrogenase
  • Choline