Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are produced at high concentration by bacteria in the gut and subsequently released in the bloodstream. Basal acetate concentrations in the blood (about 100 microm) can further increase to millimolar concentrations following alcohol intake. It was known previously that SCFAs can activate leukocytes, particularly neutrophils. In the present work, we have identified two previously orphan G protein-coupled receptors, GPR41 and GPR43, as receptors for SCFAs. Propionate was the most potent agonist for both GPR41 and GPR43. Acetate was more selective for GPR43, whereas butyrate and isobutyrate were more active on GPR41. The two receptors were coupled to inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate formation, intracellular Ca2+ release, ERK1/2 activation, and inhibition of cAMP accumulation. They exhibited, however, a differential coupling to G proteins; GPR41 coupled exclusively though the Pertussis toxin-sensitive Gi/o family, whereas GPR43 displayed a dual coupling through Gi/o and Pertussis toxin-insensitive Gq protein families. The broad expression profile of GPR41 in a number of tissues does not allow us to infer clear hypotheses regarding its biological functions. In contrast, the highly selective expression of GPR43 in leukocytes, particularly polymorphonuclear cells, suggests a role in the recruitment of these cell populations toward sites of bacterial infection. The pharmacology of GPR43 matches indeed the effects of SCFAs on neutrophils, in terms of intracellular Ca2+ release and chemotaxis. Such a neutrophil-specific SCFA receptor is potentially involved in the development of a variety of diseases characterized by either excessive or inefficient neutrophil recruitment and activation, such as inflammatory bowel diseases or alcoholism-associated immune depression. GPR43 might therefore constitute a target allowing us to modulate immune responses in these pathological situations.
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