Quinn RA, Melnik AV, Vrbanac A, et al. Global chemical effects of the microbiome include new bile-acid conjugations. Nature. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2047-9.
A mosaic of cross-phylum chemical interactions occurs between all metazoans and their microbiomes. A number of molecular families that are known to be produced by the microbiome have a marked effect on the balance between health and disease. Considering the diversity of the human microbiome (which numbers over 40,000 operational taxonomic units), the effect of the microbiome on the chemistry of an entire animal remains underexplored. Here we use mass spectrometry informatics and data visualization approaches to provide an assessment of the effects of the microbiome on the chemistry of an entire mammal by comparing metabolomics data from germ-free and specific-pathogen-free mice. We found that the microbiota affects the chemistry of all organs. This included the amino acid conjugations of host bile acids that were used to produce phenylalanocholic acid, tyrosocholic acid and leucocholic acid, which have not previously been characterized despite extensive research on bile-acid chemistry. These bile-acid conjugates were also found in humans, and were enriched in patients with inflammatory bowel disease or cystic fibrosis. These compounds agonized the farnesoid X receptor in vitro, and mice gavaged with the compounds showed reduced expression of bile-acid synthesis genes in vivo. Further studies are required to confirm whether these compounds have a physiological role in the host, and whether they contribute to gut diseases that are associated with microbiome dysbiosis.