Gut bacteria influences gene expression in humans, new research shows

The findings further highlight the link between diet, gut bacteria and human health.
By Brooks Hays  |  Jan. 9, 2018 at 2:25 PM
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Jan. 9 (UPI) -- New research shows good bacteria in the human gut releases chemical signals that alter gene regulation inside the cells of the gut lining.

Healthy bacteria release short chain fatty acids. The latest research suggests the fatty acids increase the number of crotonylations by blocking the production of the protein HDAC2. Scientists believe crotonylations play an important role in gene regulations, turning specific genes on and off in the cellular genome.

In lab tests, scientists found mice who had been robbed of healthy gut bacteria produced greater HDAC2 levels. Previous studies have identified a link between heightened HDAC2 levels and colorectal cancer. Scientists suspect crotonylation regulation plays a role in cancer prevention.

"Short chain fatty acids are a key energy source for cells in the gut but we've also shown they affect crotonylation of the genome," Rachel Fellows, a biomedical researcher at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England, said in a news release.

Fellows and her research partners published their work this week in the journal Nature Communications.

"Crotonylation is found in many cells but it's particularly common in the gut," Fellows said. "Our study reveals why this is the case by identifying a new role for HDAC2. This, in turn, has been implicated in cancer and offers an interesting new drug target to be studied further."

The findings further highlight the link between diet, gut bacteria and human health.

"Our intestine is the home of countless bacteria that help in the digestion of foods such as plant fibers," researcher Patrick Varga-Weisz said. "They also act as a barrier to harmful bacteria and educate our immune system. How these bugs affect our cells is a key part of these processes."

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