How Bacteria in the Gut Affects Metabolism - Healing Practice

New knowledge on the interaction between the intestinal flora and the host

Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses populate the human gut and affect our overall health, including our metabolism and immune system. A German research team presents the latest findings on how gut bacteria affect many processes in the body via metabolic products.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen report new insights into the interaction between gut bacteria and their host. For the first time, the working group was able to understand how bacteria produce certain lipids that actively participate in metabolism. The results of the study were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature Microbiology".

Complex Interaction Between Gut Bacteria and Host

Intestinal bacteria have a great influence on our health, as numerous studies have shown in recent years. However, the interaction between microbes and the human body is extremely complex, making it difficult to harness the benefits of healthy gut flora medically.

The team working on the current study has now gained fundamental knowledge about the interaction between intestinal bacteria and their host and thus also lays the foundation for a possible medical influence on the microbiome.

metabolites of intestinal bacteria

Work has focused on the so-called inositol lipids. These are chemicals that are produced by intestinal bacteria and are involved in many cellular processes in the body.

Inositol lipids regulate many processes in the human body as well as many other non-bacterial organisms. Among other things, they are involved in communication between cells, have an effect on inflammatory processes and help proteins reach their target site within cells.

Disturbed intestinal flora as a cause of disease

Disturbances in this process are associated with metabolic and hormonal diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome, the most common hormonal disorder in women of childbearing age.

Inositol lipids are important for the development of the intestinal flora

So far, bacteria have only rarely been observed to produce such inositol lipids. Ruth Ley's work group has now been able to document for the first time how these lipids are synthesized in the widespread gut bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.

"Although we do not yet fully understand the exact role of inositol lipids in bacteria, we have observed that they are required for successful growth in the host gut," confirms the lead author of the report. study, Stacey Heaver.

One of the main conclusions is that the strain of Bacteroides studied incorporates inositol into the bacterial capsule. In this way, the microorganisms protect themselves from being devoured by the immune system.

A new metabolic pathway discovered

Additionally, researchers were able to understand the metabolic pathways of inositol lipid synthesis – that is, the chain of chemical reactions that leads to the production of inositol lipid. They identified another putative metabolic pathway that bacteria could use to synthesize the lipid inositol.

“Discovering metabolic pathways is interesting because it allows us to predict which other microbes might make inositol lipids in the same way as our model organism,” says Heaver.

A big step towards understanding the intestinal flora

“With this knowledge, we might even be able to initiate or influence the production of inositol lipids,” summarizes the scientist. In future studies, the possible interactions between the lipids of the bacterium and those of the host will be examined more closely.

“We have made great strides in understanding the magnitude of these interactions,” concludes Heaver. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


Stacey L. Heaver, Henry H. Le, Ruth E. Ley, et al. : Characterization of inositol lipid metabolism in gut-associated Bacteroidetes; in: Naure Microbiology (2022)., nature.comMax Planck Institute for Biology: How Gut Bacteria Grow in Humans (published June 28, 2022),

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.