Many studies have suggested a role for gut-resident microbes (the “gut microbiome”) in modulating host health; however, the mechanisms by which they impact systemic physiology remain largely unknown. In this study, metabolomic and transcriptional profiling of germ-free and conventionalized mouse liver revealed an upregulation of the Nrf2 antioxidant and xenobiotic response in microbiome-replete animals. Using a Drosophila-based screening assay, we identified members of the genus Lactobacillus capable of stimulating Nrf2. Indeed, the human commensal Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) potently activated Nrf2 in the Drosophila liver analog and the murine liver. This activation was sufficient to protect against two models of oxidative liver injury, acetaminophen overdose and acute ethanol toxicity. Characterization of the portal circulation of LGG-treated mice by tandem mass spectrometry identified a small molecule activator of Nrf2, 5-methoxyindoleacetic acid, produced by LGG. Taken together, these data demonstrate a mechanism by which intestinal microbes modulate hepatic susceptibility to oxidative injury.
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