Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, a bacterium commonly found in the lower intestines of humans and other animals
Imaging

The Power of One

Change to a single gene in gut bacterium can alter metabolism

Researchers studying the human microbiome face a chicken-and-egg problem when comparing the bacterial mix from a healthy gut with that from a diseased gut: Do they attribute any differences to the disease changing the microbiome or the microbiome changing and altering the host health or disease state? HMS scientists, probing how molecules produced by gut bacteria influence mouse metabolism, found that the deletion of a single gene in a strain of the Bacteroides bacterium caused significant metabolic changes and lowered weight gain in the animals. The finding is an early step in work toward developing treatments for metabolic diseases that target the microbiome.

Devlin AS, et al., eLife, July 2018

Image: NIAID/NIH