The human gut chemical landscape predicts microbe-mediated biotransformation of foods and drugs

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34 Scopus citations


Microbes are nature’s chemists, capable of producing and metabolizing a diverse array of compounds. In the human gut, microbial biochemistry can be beneficial, for example vitamin production and complex carbohydrate breakdown; or detrimental, such as the reactivation of an inactive drug metabolite leading to patient toxicity. Identifying clinically relevant microbiome metabolism requires linking microbial biochemistry and ecology with patient outcomes. Here we present MicrobeFDT, a resource which clusters chemically similar drug and food compounds and links these compounds to microbial enzymes and known toxicities. We demonstrate that compound structural similarity can serve as a proxy for toxicity, enzyme sharing, and coarse-grained functional similarity. MicrobeFDT allows users to flexibly interrogate microbial metabolism, compounds of interest, and toxicity profiles to generate novel hypotheses of microbe-diet-drug-phenotype interactions that influence patient outcomes. We validate one such hypothesis experimentally, using MicrobeFDT to reveal unrecognized gut microbiome metabolism of the ovarian cancer drug altretamine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere42866
StatePublished - Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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