The role of short-chain fatty acids in intestinal barrier function, inflammation, oxidative stress, and colonic carcinogenesis

Pharmacol Res. 2021 Mar:165:105420. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105420. Epub 2021 Jan 9.


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), mainly including acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are metabolites produced during the bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber in the intestinal tract. They are believed to be essential factors affecting host health. Most in vitro and ex vivo studies have shown that SCFAs affect the regulation of inflammation, carcinogenesis, intestinal barrier function, and oxidative stress, but convincing evidence in humans is still lacking. Two major SCFA signaling mechanisms have been identified: promotion of histone acetylation and activation of G-protein-coupled receptors. In this review, we introduce the production and metabolic characteristics of SCFAs, summarize the potential effects of SCFAs on the four aspects mentioned above and the possible mechanisms. SCFAs have been reported to exert a wide spectrum of positive effects and have a high potential for therapeutic use in human-related diseases.

Keywords: Carcinogenesis; Inflammation; Intestinal barrier; Oxidative stress; Short-chain fatty acids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress*


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile