are absent in the gut microbiome of normal sedentary individuals. The research
team found that
capable of metabolizing lactic acid produced during intensive exercise and
converting it into propionate, which is a short-chain fatty acid. The
propionate is then utilized by the body to improve exercise capacity. The study
findings have been published in
The study was jointly led by Professor George M. Church, Ph.D, and Dr. Aleksandar
D. Kostic Ph.D. Dr. Church is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School
and a Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard University and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston. Dr. Kostic
is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School and an
Assistant Investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, USA.
first author of the paper was Dr. Jonathan Scheiman, Ph.D, who is the
Co-Founder and CEO of FitBiomics, New York. The co-author of the paper was Dr.
Sarah J. Lessard, Ph.D, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Joslin
Diabetes Center, Boston, USA.
Aim of the Study
The long-term aim
of the study is to develop a probiotic
supplement that increases exercise
capacity to promote overall health and longevity, as well as help protect
against chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Background of the Study
The study was
initiated in 2015 when fecal samples were collected from Boston Marathon
runners. Scheiman, who was
then a research fellow in Church's lab, collected fecal samples from runners
one week before and one week after the event. He also collected fecal samples
from sedentary individuals for comparison. The fecal samples were analyzed
microbiologically by Kostic to identify the bacterial species in the two
Key Findings of the Study
findings are highlighted below:
"Then the question was maybe it's not the
removal of lactic acid, but the generation of propionate,"
samples obtained immediately after the marathon contained high levels of
bacteria belonging to the genus Veillonella.
These bacteria were also generally higher in the fecal samples of runners,
compared to that of sedentary individuals
- Veillonella spp. are Gram-negative, anaerobic cocci that are quite
unique. Firstly, they are very rare in the human microbiome and secondly,
they only use lactic acid or lactate as their sole source of carbon
model studies were carried out to establish whether Veillonella was responsible for increasing exercise capacity.
They showed that when mice were supplemented with Veillonella, they ran much faster compared to the control mice
- It was
noticed that Veillonella could
metabolize lactic acid produced during exercise and convert it into
propionate, a short-chain fatty acid, thereby indicating that these
bacteria utilized lactic acid as their major food source
analysis revealed the underlying mechanism behind the metabolism of lactic
acid by Veillonella. The
researchers found that the levels of enzymes responsible for the conversion of lactic acid
into propionate were highly elevated in these bacteria following strenuous
says Kostic. "We did some experiments to introduce
propionate into mice (via enema) and test whether that was sufficient for this
increased running ability phenotype. And it was."
Kostic and his
colleagues plan to set up a collaboration with Lessard's group to
investigate the mechanism of action of propionate in the regulation
of exercise capacity.
Kostic concludes: "This
is one of the first studies to directly show a strong example of symbiosis
between microbes and their human host."
very clear. It creates this positive feedback loop. The host is producing
something that this particular microbe favors. Then in return, the microbe is
creating something that benefits the host,"
he says. "This is a really important example of how the microbiome has evolved
ways to become this symbiotic presence in the human host."
This work was
funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Human Genome Research
Institute (NIH/NHGRI), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases (NIH/NIDDK), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the
Synthetic Biology Platform at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired
Engineering at Harvard University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF),
- Meta-omics analysis of elite athletes identifies a performance-enhancing microbe that functions via lactate metabolism - (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0485-4)