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Immunology. 2018 Jun;154(2):220-229. doi: 10.1111/imm.12930. Epub 2018 Apr 17.

Immune regulation by microbiome metabolites.

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Department of Pathology and Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Commensal microbes and the host immune system have been co-evolved for mutual regulation. Microbes regulate the host immune system, in part, by producing metabolites. A mounting body of evidence indicates that diverse microbial metabolites profoundly regulate the immune system via host receptors and other target molecules. Immune cells express metabolite-specific receptors such as P2X7 , GPR41, GPR43, GPR109A, aryl hydrocarbon receptor precursor (AhR), pregnane X receptor (PXR), farnesoid X receptor (FXR), TGR5 and other molecular targets. Microbial metabolites and their receptors form an extensive array of signals to respond to changes in nutrition, health and immunological status. As a consequence, microbial metabolite signals contribute to nutrient harvest from diet, and regulate host metabolism and the immune system. Importantly, microbial metabolites bidirectionally function to promote both tolerance and immunity to effectively fight infection without developing inflammatory diseases. In pathogenic conditions, adverse effects of microbial metabolites have been observed as well. Key immune-regulatory functions of the metabolites, generated from carbohydrates, proteins and bile acids, are reviewed in this article.


barrier function; bile acids; immunity; indole; inflammation; metabolites; microbiome; short-chain fatty acids


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