Gut microbiota is the microbe population living in human intestine. Our gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes. Gut microbiota, also known as gut flora, can weigh up to 2 kg. One third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, while two thirds are specific to each one of us. In other words, the microbiota in a person’s intestine is like an individual identity card.
Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that does not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence.
The human gut microbiota presents a strong influence on health and disease development. Metagenomic analysis has revealed the importance of the interaction between the genomes of food, gut microbiota and the host. Also, the establishment of humanized mouse gut microbiota in appropriate animal models has further contributed to the understanding of its function. The composition of the gut microbiota presents a significant impact on the risk of disease development supported by findings of substantial individual variations. Many low molecular weight bacterial substances have been indicated to affect chromatin remodeling, regulation of apoptosis, cellular differentiation and inflammation. The gut microbiota has also been linked to the etiology of cancer because of how it can alter dietary exposures.
A research by Kenneth Lundstrom published here discusses the relationship between gut microbiota and epigentics. Microbial metabolites have been associated with epigenetic modifications, reversible heritable changes in gene expression without alterations in the primary DNA sequence, which may influence the risk of various cancers and other diseases. As many microbial metabolites are absorbed into systemic circulation, gene expression might also be affected in distal regions of the gut. Therefore, the interaction of dietary intake, gut microbiota and epigenetic modifications plays an important role in disease risk, development and prevention.