The effect of Fe supplementation on human gut bacteria

Stable elements play a large role in our daily lives. A number of these metals are important for the proper functioning of the human body, or even essential to our survival. Dietary supplements are becoming increasingly popular, both prescribed by the hospital as well as self-medicated. However, there is a delicate balance, where too much or too little can often be toxic. In many cases the underlying biochemical mechanisms and health effects are not well known.

The microbiome of an individual plays an important role in human’s health. The majority of the microbiome is made up of mico-organisms present in the gut. Metals are known to play a role in the survival and reproduction of bacteria. Iron (Fe) supplementation can be necessary in the treatment of iron deficient anaemia and mostly oral supplements are used to restore iron stocks. However the intestinal uptake of this iron is low, which results in an exposure of the human micriobiome in the gut to an excess of iron. Little is known about the effect of such an exposure on the various strains of bacteria. There are indications that such an excess of iron may be detrimental to the balance between favourable and pathological bacteria. In handling metals by bacteria, metalloproteins play a vital role in cell metabolism. The MIRAGE technique, studying metalloproteomics in bacteria by using radioactive metal isotopes as tracers, provides information on the effect of overexposure as well as deficiency of metals on cell metabolism of bacteria. In this study this technique will be used used to study the effect over overexposure to iron on various micro-organisms that play a crucial role in the maintenance of the human microbiome. Changes in Fe distribution among the microbial proteomes will be determined. This will help us understand how Fe supplementation may affect the human microbiome, and therefore human health, down to the molecular level.