An ancestral chemical code: Are plant triterpenoids talking to and through our gut?

The other day I talked about the striking analogy between the endogenous vitamin D metabolite calcitroic acid and bile acids and reported some of my own unpublished results suggesting that this compound may in fact be a pleiotropic hormone on its own right.

Today I am also reporting some unpublished results that have led me to the conclusion that there might indeed be a chemical code in food, beyond nutrients, that our gut receptors and microbiota have evolved to decipher. That being the case, would not it be both fascinating and informative trying to crack that code ourselves?

More in detail, I have discovered that, as endogenous bile acids, pentacyclic triterpenoids consistently modulate the activity of the gut and liver Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR).

Regardless of whether these findings are merely anecdotal or if there are indeed evolutionary patterns at play, the possibility of fine tuning our metabolism with food ingredients that do not enter into systemic circulation seems to me like a very attractive one (and one with potential commercial implications…).

As usual, a few slides in PDF format can be downloaded from here.

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