Gut microbiota-derived indole 3-propionic acid protects against radiation toxicity via retaining acyl-CoA-binding protein

Microbiome. 2020 May 20;8(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s40168-020-00845-6.


Background: We have proved fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an efficacious remedy to mitigate acute radiation syndrome (ARS); however, the mechanisms remain incompletely characterized. Here, we aimed to tease apart the gut microbiota-produced metabolites, underpin the therapeutic effects of FMT to radiation injuries, and elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms.

Results: FMT elevated the level of microbial-derived indole 3-propionic acid (IPA) in fecal pellets from irradiated mice. IPA replenishment via oral route attenuated hematopoietic system and gastrointestinal (GI) tract injuries intertwined with radiation exposure without precipitating tumor growth in male and female mice. Specifically, IPA-treated mice represented a lower system inflammatory level, recuperative hematogenic organs, catabatic myelosuppression, improved GI function, and epithelial integrity following irradiation. 16S rRNA gene sequencing and subsequent analyses showed that irradiated mice harbored a disordered enteric bacterial pattern, which was preserved after IPA administration. Notably, iTRAQ analysis presented that IPA replenishment retained radiation-reprogrammed protein expression profile in the small intestine. Importantly, shRNA interference and hydrodynamic-based gene delivery assays further validated that pregnane X receptor (PXR)/acyl-CoA-binding protein (ACBP) signaling played pivotal roles in IPA-favored radioprotection in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: These evidences highlight that IPA is a key intestinal microbiota metabolite corroborating the therapeutic effects of FMT to radiation toxicity. Owing to the potential pitfalls of FMT, IPA might be employed as a safe and effective succedaneum to fight against accidental or iatrogenic ionizing ARS in clinical settings. Our findings also provide a novel insight into microbiome-based remedies toward radioactive diseases. Video abstract.

Keywords: ACBP; Acute radiation syndrome; Gastrointestinal tract toxicity; Gut microbiota; Gut microbiota metabolite; Hematopoietic toxicity; Indole 3-propionic acid; Radiotherapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Diazepam Binding Inhibitor* / metabolism
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / radiation effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Hematopoiesis / drug effects
  • Indoles* / administration & dosage
  • Indoles* / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Pregnane X Receptor / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Radiation Injuries* / therapy
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Diazepam Binding Inhibitor
  • Indoles
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • indolepropionic acid