An overlooked gut microbiota product

This 2021 review subject was histone crotonylation:

“Histone crotonylation is a newly identified epigenetic modification that has a pronounced ability to regulate gene expression. It belongs to an expanding group of short chain lysine acylations that also includes the extensively studied mark histone acetylation.

Histone Kcr was first identified in 2011 where it was found to be mainly associated with active chromatin. Kcr occurs on the ε-amino group of the lysine side chain, where it neutralizes the positive charge of this residue. The loss in positive charge on histone Lys residues weakens DNA interaction, thus making chromatin less compact and accessible to DNA-binding factors.

Crotonate, like other short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), is mainly produced by gut microbiota during fermentation of partially and nondigestible carbohydrates. Circulating SCFAs (acetate, crotonate, butyrate, and propionate) can be taken up by tissues and converted into their cognate short-chain acyl-CoAs, the direct donors of histone Lys acylations.


Crotonyl-CoA is generated as a by-product of fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. Synthesis of crotonyl-CoA can occur in mitochondria or the cytoplasm. Evidence suggests that histone acylations are directly sensitive to changes in concentrations of their corresponding acyl-CoA metabolites, and therefore can act as indicators of cellular metabolic state.

Only a small number of Kcr sites in human histones have been identified so far. This is in part due to a lack of commercially available Kcr site-specific antibodies, which has meant much of the research in this field has focused on studying total histone crotonylation. This is likely to limit our understanding of the importance of histone Kcr, as functional impact of modification at specific sites cannot be readily assessed.” “The Regulation and Function of Histone Crotonylation”

At first I thought I had missed recent studies of gut microbiota producing crotonate. Searching again for “crotonate” “microbiota” 2020 2021, I didn’t find any that weren’t cited by this paper.

A lack of research could be due to factors mentioned above. It may also be that researchers just don’t look for evidence of the circulating SCFA crotonate.

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