A Western-style, high-fat diet promotes cardiovascular disease, in part because it is rich in choline, which is converted to trimethylamine (TMA) by the gut microbiota. However, whether diet-induced changes in intestinal physiology can alter the metabolic capacity of the microbiota remains unknown. Using a mouse model of diet-induced obesity, we show that chronic exposure to a high-fat diet escalates Escherichia coli choline catabolism by altering intestinal epithelial physiology.
A high-fat diet impaired the bioenergetics of mitochondria in the colonic epithelium to increase the luminal bioavailability of oxygen and nitrate, thereby intensifying respiration-dependent choline catabolism of E. coli. In turn, E. coli choline catabolism increased levels of circulating trimethlamine N-oxide, which is a potentially harmful metabolite generated by gut microbiota.