The nutrition-gut microbiome-physiology axis and allergic diseases

Craig McKenzie, Jian Tan, Laurence Macia, Charles R. Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

214 Citations (Scopus)


Dietary and bacterial metabolites influence immune responses. This raises the question whether the increased incidence of allergies, asthma, some autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and others might relate to intake of unhealthy foods, and the decreased intake of dietary fiber. In recent years, new knowledge on the molecular mechanisms underpinning a ‘diet-gut microbiota-physiology axis’ has emerged to substantiate this idea. Fiber is fermented to short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), particularly acetate, butyrate, and propionate. These metabolites bind ‘metabolite-sensing’ G-protein-coupled receptors such as GPR43, GPR41, and GPR109A. These receptors play fundamental roles in the promotion of gut homeostasis and the regulation of inflammatory responses. For instance, these receptors and their metabolites influence Treg biology, epithelial integrity, gut homeostasis, DC biology, and IgA antibody responses. The SCFAs also influence gene transcription in many cells and tissues, through their inhibition of histone deacetylase expression or function. Contained in this mix is the gut microbiome, as commensal bacteria in the gut have the necessary enzymes to digest dietary fiber to SCFAs, and dysbiosis in the gut may affect the production of SCFAs and their distribution to tissues throughout the body. SCFAs can epigenetically modify DNA, and so may be one mechanism to account for diseases with a ‘developmental origin’, whereby in utero or post-natal exposure to environmental factors (such as nutrition of the mother) may account for disease later in life. If the nutrition-gut microbiome-physiology axis does underpin at least some of the Western lifestyle influence on asthma and allergies, then there is tremendous scope to correct this with healthy foodstuffs, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-295
Number of pages19
JournalImmunological Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • allergy
  • asthma
  • autoimmunity
  • inflammation
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • lipid mediators

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