Chromatin dynamics and histone modifications in intestinal microbiota-host crosstalk

Rachel Fellows, Patrick Varga-Weisz


The microbiota in the human gut are an important component of normal physiology that has co-evolved from the earliest multicellular organisms. Therefore, it is unsurprising that there is intimate crosstalk between the microbial world in the gut and the host. Genome regulation through microbiota-host interactions not only affects the host's immunity, but also metabolic health and resilience against cancer. Chromatin dynamics of the host epithelium involving histone modifications and other facets of the epigenetic machinery play an important role in this process.

Scope of review

This review discusses recent findings relevant to how chromatin dynamics shape the crosstalk between the microbiota and its host, with a special focus on the role of histone modifications.

Major conclusions

Host-microbiome interactions are important evolutionary drivers and are thus expected to be hardwired into and mould the epigenetic machinery in multicellular organisms. Microbial-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are dominant determinants of microbiome–host interactions, and the inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDACs) by SCFA is a key mechanism in this process. The discovery of alternative histone acylations, such as crotonylation, in addition to the canonical histone acetylation reveals a new layer of complexity in this crosstalk.