The gut microbiota influences numerous aspects of human biology. One facet that has not been thoroughly explored is its impact on the host proteome. We hypothesized that the microbiota may produce certain of its effects through covalent modification of host proteins. We focused on protein lysine ε-acetylation because of its recently discovered roles in regulation of cell metabolism, and the potential for products of microbial fermentation to interact with the lysine acetylation machinery of host cells. Germ-free mice, fed a 15N-labeled diet for two generations, were colonized as adults with a microbiota harvested from conventionally raised mouse donors. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry, we quantified 3,891 liver and proximal colonic proteins, 558 of which contained 1,602 sites of lysine acetylation, 43% not previously described. Multiple proteins from multiple subcellular compartments underwent microbiota-associated increases in their levels of lysine acetylation at one or more residues, in one or both tissues. Acetylated proteins were enriched in functions related to energy production, respiration, and primary metabolism. A number of the acetylation events affect lysine residues at or near the active sites of enzymes, whereas others occur at locations that may affect other facets of protein function. One of these modifications, affecting Lys292 in mouse α-1-antitrypsin, was detected in the corresponding lysine of the human serum protein. Methods described in this report can be applied to other co- or posttranslational modifications, and add quantitation of protein expression and covalent modification to the arsenal of techniques for characterizing the dynamic, important interactions between gut symbionts and their hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11133-11138
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 10 2012


  • Gut microbiome
  • Quantitative proteomics
  • Spirulina
  • Stable isotopic labeling of mammals


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