Roadmap to functional characterization of the human intestinal microbiota in its interaction with the host

Carolin A. Kolmeder*, Willem M. de Vos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

It is known for more than 100 years that the intestinal microbes are important for the host's health and the last decade this is being intensely studied with a focus on the mechanistic aspects. Among the fundamental functions of the intestinal microbiome are the priming of the immune system, the production of essential vitamins and the energy harvest from foods. By now, several dozens of diseases, both intestinal and non-intestinal related, have been associated with the intestinal microbiome. Initially, this was based on the description of the composition between groups of different health status or treatment arms based on phylogenetic approaches based on the 16S rRNA gene sequences. This way of analysis has mostly moved to the analysis of all the genes or transcripts of the microbiome i.e. metagenomics and meta-transcriptomics. Differences are regularly found but these have to be taken with caution as we still do not know what the majority of genes of the intestinal microbiome are capable of doing. To circumvent this caveat researchers are studying the proteins and the metabolites of the microbiome and the host via metaproteomics and metabolomics approaches. However, also here the complexity is high and only a fraction of signals obtained with high throughput instruments can be identified and assigned to a known protein or molecule. Therefore, modern microbiome research needs advancement of existing and development of new analytical techniques. The usage of model systems like intestinal organoids where samples can be taken and processed rapidly as well as microfluidics systems may help. This review aims to elucidate what we know about the functionality of the human intestinal microbiome, what technologies are advancing this knowledge, and what innovations are still required to further evolve this actively developing field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113751
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
Volume194
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • Function
  • Human
  • Interaction
  • Intestine
  • Microbiome

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