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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Gut Microbial Metabolism and Host Epigenetic States

It is well established that factors like diet and lifestyle can affect our health, but the molecular basis largely remains a mystery. Gut microbiome communities are also influenced by these same factors, are known to which can impact human health. New research suggest that gut microbiome produce chemical signals that can alter the epigenome of the host.

The epigenome is a set of chemical instructions that sits on top of the genome and allows cells having an identical genome to express different sets of genes. Comparing “germ free” and colonized mice on defined diets, this project will explore how gut microbes alter the levels of circulating metabolites, specifically essential nutrient choline, and how these dynamic metabolites alter the host’s epigenome. Altered epigenomes lead to changes in gene expression that can have both health benefits and risks.

The results of this research will provide key knowledge of how microbiome and diet can drive molecular and physiological changes in the host. By revealing this knowledge, individuals as well as health care providers could make better precision-medicine decisions, especially for diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, all of which have been linked to unique microbiome communities.


John Denu, Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry


Federico Rey, Assistant Professor of Bacteriology

Reid Alisch, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry