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Gut Microbes Browse Along a Gene Buffet

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In the moist, dark microbial rainforest of the intestine, hundreds of species of microorganisms interact with each other and with the cells of the host animal to get the resources they need to survive and thrive.

Though there's a lot of competition in this vibrant ecosystem, collaboration is valued too. A new study on the crosstalk between microbes and cells lining the gut of mice shows just how cooperative this environment can be.

One of the main ways that hosts manage their interactions with microbes is by carefully controlling the genes that their cells use. Duke University researchers, with colleagues from UNC-Chapel Hill and Stanford, found that the host genes in the intestine are poised to respond to microbes, and the microbes signal to the host to determine which genes respond. The study appears August 7 in the journal Genome Research.

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