Bacteria in the gut may be able to boss around the genes found in their hosts – at least, in worms. According to a new study published in the journal Cell, trillions of bacteria found within the average gut may be practicing a variety of "interspecies communication" that transcends language.
Gut bacteria secrete a molecule called nitric oxide. In an attempt to understand how bacteria communicate with its host, researchers tracked nitric oxide levels inside tiny worms ( C. elegans ). They found that this molecule is capable of attaching to thousands of host proteins and, as such, changed the worm's ability to regulate its own gene expression. And if it works in worms, there is a possibility similar activity could be happening within our own stomachs. Previous research has shown that nitric oxide attaches to human proteins in a process known as S-nitrosylation, which has been linked to diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, asthma, and cancer, among others.
"There is tremendous complexity in the gut, and many researchers are after the next unusual substance produced by a bacterium that might affect human health. The enormity of the gut bacteria population and its relationship to the host predicts there will be general means. to communicate that we can recognize, ”said study author Jonathan Stamler in a statement
In the lab, researchers grow growing worms that naturally produce nitric oxide and then selected a specific protein called argonaute protein, or ALG-1
"Our found suggest a general mechanism by which the microbiota may control host cellular functions, as well as a new role for gas transmitters, "wrote the authors.
However, s You are probably not present in most animals. Stems notes that mammals outside of the lab are probably able to adjust and accommodate to nitric oxide levels in real time.
"The worm is going to be able to stop eating the bacteria that make the nitric oxide, or it will start to eat different bacteria that makes less nitric oxide, or change its environment, or countless other adaptations. But by the same token, too much nitric oxide produced by our microbiome may cause disease or developmental problems in the fetus, "he explained.
Stamer says his research adds to growing body of work that shows how bacteria live in the gut influence diet and environment, thus impacting our health tremendously.He works his future therapeutic potential.