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Gut microbiota helps to maintain core body temperature under cold exposure.

Microbiota is the name given to the trillions of microorganisms living in and on our bodies, which are crucial to the regulation and balance of human and animal health.  A relationship between gut microbiota and the host metabolic homeostasis has long been explored, with brown adipose tissue (BAT) shown to maintain host core body temperature during cold exposure. However, the potential impact of gut microbiota on this thermogenic process is unclear.  Now, a study from researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences shows the gut microbiota plays an important role in the way animals respond to cold exposure.  The team states their data adds to the ever-growing catalog of physiology and health conditions impacted by the gut microbiome.  The opensource study is published in the journal Cell Reports.

Previous studies show during cold exposure animals sustain their body temperature by activating heat production from BAT and the browning of white adipose tissue.  Evidence from animal studies records the effectiveness of BAT based thermogenesis in stimulating energy expenditure to reduce obesity, known as metabolic homeostasis. The capacity for brown fat thermoregulation is thought to come from genetic variability in response to environmental signals, suggesting a role for the gut microbiome.  The current study investigates how BAT and white adipose tissue respond to temperature challenges in mice lacking gut microbiota.

The current study utilizes an antibiotic cocktail to eradicate gut microbiota in mice to evaluate the function of gut microbiota on the activation of BAT.  Results show animals lacking gut microbiota had impaired thermoregulation.  Data findings show removal of the gut microbiota blunted the increase in the expression of uncoupling protein in BAT and reduced white adipose tissue browning.

Results show the ingesting of butyrate, a microbiota metabolite thought to activate BAT via a direct gut-brain neural circuit, increased the thermogenic capacity of the animals, reversing the lack of microbiota.  Data findings show the gut microbiota contributes to upregulated thermogenesis in the cold environment and this may be partially mediated via butyrate.

The team surmises their study shows an intact microbiota is essential for regulating body heat in response to cold exposure, and microbial-derived butyrate may be a mediating factor in this role.  For the future, the researchers state it will be interesting to discover if known changes in the human microbiome with age contribute to susceptibility to hyperthermia, and if modulating these age-related changes will afford elderly people more protection.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

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