Emerging Gut Microbe Emits Foul-Smelling Gas with Pathogen-Protective Properties

Microbiologist Alexander Loy, leading an international team of scientists from the University of Vienna, has unearthed a novel intestinal microbe with a peculiar dietary preference for taurine, generating hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct—a notably malodorous gas. This breakthrough contributes another piece to our comprehension of microbial processes that wield intriguing influences on health.

Within this realm of microbial interactions, Taurinivorans muris takes center stage, showcasing its protective prowess against Klebsiella and Salmonella, two formidable pathogens. These findings have been recently disclosed in the esteemed journal Nature Communications.

What’s that Unpleasant Odor?
The intricate tapestry of the gut microbiome exerts a multitude of influences on our well-being, one of which pertains to the regulation of hydrogen sulfide levels—a noxious gas responsible for the pungent aroma of flatulence. Maintaining a modest presence of hydrogen sulfide within the gut proves advantageous, as it plays pivotal roles in various physiological processes and can even act as a deterrent against pathogens. Microbes that produce hydrogen sulfide can potentially suffocate oxygen-dependent invaders like Klebsiella, making it challenging for them to establish a foothold.

Nonetheless, excessive levels of this gas can have detrimental consequences, potentially leading to gut inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining. Identifying the key actors and mechanisms behind hydrogen sulfide production in our gut represents the foundational stride toward devising therapeutic interventions, particularly for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

The Vital Role of Taurine
Bilophila wadsworthia stands as one of the prominent consumers of taurine among humans. In the present research, led by Alexander Loy at CeMESS (Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science, University of Vienna), a novel genus of hydrogen sulfide-generating bacteria inhabiting the mouse intestine has been unveiled.

Loy elaborates, “The bacterium we’ve described has quite a specialized diet; it thrives on taurine.” Taurine, a semi-essential amino acid, is primarily acquired through dietary sources, notably meat, dairy, and seafood, as our own synthesis of it in the liver remains limited.

Taurine, akin to hydrogen sulfide, partakes in a myriad of physiological processes. Recent studies have linked taurine consumption to healthy aging, suggesting that this nutrient may fend off age-related ailments. Given these revelations, the discovery of a gut microbe with an exclusive taurine diet, aptly named Taurinivorans muris, constitutes another intriguing puzzle piece.

Huimin Ye, the study’s lead author, notes, “By isolating the first taurine degrader in the mouse gut, we’re one step closer to unraveling the intricate role these gut microbes play in animal and human health.”

Notably, for Taurinivorans muris to access sufficient taurine in the gut, it relies on the assistance of other gut microbes to liberate taurine from bile acids. These bile acids, enriched with taurine, emanate from the liver and surge into the intestine during high-fat diets, facilitating fat digestion. The actions of intestinal bacteria, in turn, shape bile acid metabolism in the liver. The insights from these Vienna-based researchers consequently enhance our comprehension of these intricate interactions within bile acid metabolism, which reverberate throughout the body’s processes and diseases.

Taurine-Degrading Microbes: Guardians Against Pathogens
Among the myriad functions of symbiotic gut microbes, defense against pathogens reigns supreme. The microbiome boasts a versatile arsenal of protective mechanisms, including the utilization of taurine to produce hydrogen sulfide. Huimin Ye explains, “Hydrogen sulfide may suppress the oxygen-dependent metabolism of some pathogens.”

In their investigation, the researchers unearthed Taurinivorans muris’s protective role against Klebsiella and Salmonella, both formidable gut pathogens. Loy adds, “While the precise mechanisms underlying Taurinivorans muris’s protection against pathogens, possibly via hydrogen sulfide, remain incompletely understood, the significance of taurine as a prime source of hydrogen sulfide production in the gut is undeniable.” This study thus furnishes fundamental insights into the intricate physiological interplay between diverse gut microbes and their hosts, knowledge essential for advancing microbiome-based therapeutic approaches.

Source: University of Vienna

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