Gut commensals expand vitamin A metabolic capacity of the mammalian host

Maryam Bonakdar, Lindsay C. Czuba, Geongoo Han, Guo Zhong, Hien Luong, Nina Isoherrannen, Shipra Vaishnava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Conversion of dietary vitamin A (VA) into retinoic acid (RA) is essential for many biological processes and thus far studied largely in mammalian cells. Using targeted metabolomics, we found that commensal bacteria in the mouse gut lumen produced a high concentration of the active retinoids, all-trans-retinoic acid (atRA) and 13-cis-retinoic acid (13cisRA), as well as the principal circulating retinoid, retinol. Ablation of anerobic bacteria significantly reduced retinol, atRA, and 13cisRA, whereas introducing these bacteria into germ-free mice significantly enhanced retinoids. Remarkably, cecal bacterial supplemented with VA produced active retinoids in vitro, establishing that gut bacteria encode metabolic machinery necessary for multistep conversion of dietary VA into its active forms. Finally, gut bacteria Lactobacillus intestinalis metabolized VA and specifically restored RA levels in the gut of vancomycin-treated mice. Our work establishes vitamin A metabolism as an emergent property of the gut microbiome and lays the groundwork for developing probiotic-based retinoid therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1084-1092.e5
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 10 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • 13-cis-retinoic acid
  • LC-MS/MS
  • all-trans-retinoic acid
  • germ-free mice
  • microbiome
  • retinol
  • vitamin A metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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