Polyphenols and Tryptophan Metabolites Activate the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor in an in vitro Model of Colonic Fermentation

Jonna E.B. Koper, Linda M.P. Loonen, Jerry M. Wells, Antonio Dario Troise, Edoardo Capuano, Vincenzo Fogliano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Scope: Many dietary phytochemicals have been reported to promote gut health. Specific dietary phytochemicals, such as luteolin, as well as specific microbial metabolites of tryptophan are ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which plays a role in immunity and homeostasis of the gut barrier. Here, the fate of luteolin during colonic fermentation and the contribution of tryptophan metabolites to AhR activity in different parts of the colon are investigated. Methods and results: Several polyphenols are screened for AhR activation and oregano, containing the ligand luteolin, is added to batch cultures of human microbiota from the distal colon. Luteolin is rapidly metabolized, with no measurable increase in AhR activity. In the second experiment, using the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME), not all luteolin is metabolized in the ascending colon, but disappear rapidly in the transverse colon. The greatest AhR activity is due to microbiota-derived metabolites of tryptophan, particularly in the descending colon. Conclusions: Luteolin in food is rapidly metabolized in the transverse colon. Tryptophan metabolism by the microbiota in the colon contributes substantially to the pool of lumen metabolites that can activate the AhR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1800722
JournalMolecular Nutrition and Food Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • luteolin
  • microbiota
  • tryptophan


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