When a host experiences increased energy demands, do the gut microbiota help maintain homeostasis?

In a recent Cell article, Chevalier, et al. showed that mice who were exposed to cold temperatures experienced a shift in microbiota composition. Transplanting this ‘cold microbiota’ into germ-free mice resulted in increased insulin sensitivity and white fat browning, with increased energy expenditure and fat loss. Akkermansia muciniphilawas particularly suppressed with cold exposure.

Adaptive mechanisms then emerged in mice exposed to cold for a prolonged period: weight loss tapered off because the absorptive surface of the gut grew and caloric uptake increased. This adaptive effect was also transferable into germ-free mice; the recipient mice showed altered intestinal gene expression, which promoted tissue remodeling. When the researchers added Akkermansia muciniphila to the cold microbiota during transplantation, the increased caloric uptake was diminished.

This study shows gut microbiota can help control overall energy balance in situations of increased demand.


Chevalier, et al. (2015) Gut Microbiota Orchestrates Energy Homeostasis during Cold.Cell DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.004