Amino acid metabolism in intestinal bacteria and its potential implications for mammalian reproduction
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Reproduction is vital for producing offspring and preserving genetic resources. However, incidences of many reproductive disorders (e.g. miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, premature delivery and lower sperm quality) have either increased dramatically or remained at high rates over the last decades. Mounting evidence shows a strong correlation between enteral protein nutrition and reproduction. Besides serving as major nutrients in the diet, amino acids (AA) are signaling molecules in the regulation of diverse physiological processes, ranging from spermatogenesis to oocyte fertilization and to embryo implantation. Notably, the numbers of bacteria in the intestine exceed the numbers of host cells by 10 times. Microbes in the small-intestinal lumen actively metabolize large amounts of dietary AA and, therefore, affect the entry of AA into the portal circulation for whole-body utilization. Changes in the composition and abundance of AA-metabolizing bacteria in the gut during pregnancy, as well as their translocation to the uterus, may alter uterine function and epigenetic modifications of maternal physiology and metabolism, which are crucial for pregnancy recognition and fetal development. Thus, the presence of the maternal gut microbiota and AA metabolites in the intrauterine environments (e.g. endometrium and placenta) and breast milk is likely a unique signature for the programming of the whole-body microbiome and metabolism in both the fetus and infant. Dietary intervention with functional AA, probiotics and prebiotics to alter the abundance and activity of intestinal bacteria may ameliorate or prevent the development of metabolic syndrome, while improving reproductive performance in both males and females as well as their offspring.
author list (cited authors)
Dai, Z., Wu, Z., Hang, S., Zhu, W., & Wu, G.