Human beings contain complex societies of indigenous microbes, yet little is known about how resident bacteria shape our physiology. We colonized germ-free mice with Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent component of the normal mouse and human intestinal microflora. Global intestinal transcriptional responses to colonization were observed with DNA microarrays, and the cellular origins of selected responses were established by laser-capture microdissection. The results reveal that this commensal bacterium modulates expression of genes involved in several important intestinal functions, including nutrient absorption, mucosal barrier fortification, xenobiotic metabolism, angiogenesis, and postnatal intestinal maturation. These findings provide perspectives about the essential nature of the interactions between resident microorganisms and their hosts.