Gut bacteria are what we eat

Gut microbes, which help humans degrade otherwise indigestible plant material, acquire some crucial digestive enzyme genes from the bacteria in the food we eat, according to a study published this week in Nature. This new finding provides an example of horizontal gene transfer by which diet can influence the genetic diversity and functionality of the human gut microbiome. Image: Wikimedia commons, Alessandro Scotti"It's a fascinating story," said microbiologist linkurl:Jeffrey Gordon;http://gor

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Apr 6, 2010
Gut microbes, which help humans degrade otherwise indigestible plant material, acquire some crucial digestive enzyme genes from the bacteria in the food we eat, according to a study published this week in Nature. This new finding provides an example of horizontal gene transfer by which diet can influence the genetic diversity and functionality of the human gut microbiome.
Image: Wikimedia commons,
Alessandro Scotti
"It's a fascinating story," said microbiologist linkurl:Jeffrey Gordon;http://gordonlab.wustl.edu/ of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who did not participate in the study. "It shows that there's a dimension to human evolution that's occurring at the level of our gut microbiome." "This is an exciting development," agreed microbiologist linkurl:Justin Sonnenburg;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/microimmuno/researcher/Justin_Sonnenburg/ of Stanford University School of Medicine, who also was not involved in the research. "I think we're at the tip of the iceberg here. Human diet is so diverse, I think that we're just getting...
Nature



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