Research

How gut bacteria communicate with our DNA, study finds

A study, published in the journal Cell, describes a form of ‘interspecies communication’ in which trillions of gut bacteria secrete a specific molecule that transcends language.

The molecule, nitric oxide, allows them to interconnect with and control their hosts’ DNA and advocates that the conversation between these two may largely influence human health.

Bacteria present in the gut do far more than aid digest food in the stomachs of hosts. They can also communicate the genes of their mammalian hosts what to do.

The findings of the study propose a general mechanism through which the microbiota may control the cellular functioning of the host, as well as a new part for gasotransmitters. A molecule called nitric oxide is secreted by gut bacteria.

To comprehend how bacteria communicate with their host, investigators followed nitric oxide levels inside tiny worms like C. elegans.

Findings of the study

Researchers found that nitric oxide is capable of attaching to thousands of host proteins. In this way, it changed the ability of worm to regulate its own gene expression. And if it is working in worms, there is a likelihood similar activity could be happening in our own stomachs.

In the lab, investigators fed growing worms. These worms naturally produce nitric oxide and then selected a particular protein named argonaute protein, or ALG-1. Nitric oxide secreted by these bacteria then attach to ALG-1.

After this attachment, the worms develop deformed reproductive organs and died. Excessive nitric oxide took control of the worms’ DNA silencing proteins and reduced any hope of healthy development.

However, such awful consequences are possibly not present in most animals. Researchers noted that outside the lab, mammals are most probably able to regulate and accommodate varying nitric oxide levels in actual time.

According to them, a worm may be going to stop ingesting the bacteria which make the nitric oxide, or it will start to ingest different bacteria which makes less nitric oxide or may change its environment or many other adaptations.

But it was also observed that excessive nitric oxide may cause disease or developmental complications in the fetus.

Preceding research has revealed that nitric oxide attaches to human proteins through a process called S-nitrosylation. That has been associated with diseases such as asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer, among others.

According to the researchers of the study, there is much complexity in the gut. And many investigators are after the next uncommon substance produced by a bacterium which might affect human health.

The enormity of these gut bacteria population and its association to the host shows that there will be general means of communication which can be recognized.

Future prospects of the study

Researchers hope that this study adds to a growing body of effort which shows how gut bacteria influence diet and environment. Thus, producing an impact on our health vastly. They imagine that nitric oxide may denote a chance to operate this symbiotic relationship.

As probiotics are prepared to improve digestion, inoculating an individual’s gut with bacteria for the improvement of nitric oxide signaling is possible. It can now be considered therapeutically, like a drug. Hence, there are incredible opportunities to manipulate the levels of nitric oxide to improve human health.

Sophie Abram

Sophie Abram is an author at Top Health Journal. She has a master’s degree in Biochemistry. Evidence-based nutrition is her passion and she loves to devote her career to informing the general public about it. She has extensive experience as a researcher and her research focus is within food reformulation, improving food supply and food environments. Her research examines how nutrition, dietary supplements, and exercise affects human body composition.

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