SCFA: mechanisms and functional importance in the gut

Proc Nutr Soc. 2021 Feb;80(1):37-49. doi: 10.1017/S0029665120006916. Epub 2020 Apr 2.


In recent years, the importance of the gut microbiota in human health has been revealed and many publications have highlighted its role as a key component of human physiology. Owing to the use of modern sequencing approaches, the characterisation of the microbiome in healthy individuals and in disease has demonstrated a disturbance of the microbiota, or dysbiosis, associated with pathological conditions. The microbiota establishes a symbiotic crosstalk with their host: commensal microbes benefit from the nutrient-rich environment provided by the gut and the microbiota produces hundreds of proteins and metabolites that modulate key functions of the host, including nutrient processing, maintenance of energy homoeostasis and immune system development. Many bacteria-derived metabolites originate from dietary sources. Among them, an important role has been attributed to the metabolites derived from the bacterial fermentation of dietary fibres, namely SCFA linking host nutrition to intestinal homoeostasis maintenance. SCFA are important fuels for intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) and regulate IEC functions through different mechanisms to modulate their proliferation, differentiation as well as functions of subpopulations such as enteroendocrine cells, to impact gut motility and to strengthen the gut barrier functions as well as host metabolism. Recent findings show that SCFA, and in particular butyrate, also have important intestinal and immuno-modulatory functions. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms and the impact of SCFA on gut functions and host immunity and consequently on human health.

Keywords: Gut; Microbiota; SCFA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysbiosis / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile