Energy balance and metabolic homeostasis are maintained by complex regulatory systems. Changes in nutrient availability and storage can be sensed at the molecular level by the body. This process of ‘nutrient sensing’ will activate adaptive responses such as altered feeding behaviour, energy expenditure and substrate metabolism. Our group is interested in nutrient-sensing regulatory pathways, in particular those triggered by cell-surface receptors.
One major line of research deals with the signalling properties of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) receptors. SCFA are generated by the microbial fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates in the intestine. Besides being used as an energy source, SCFA can signal through several G protein-coupled receptors to elicit a wide range of cellular responses, ranging from gut hormone production (e.g. PYY, GLP-1) to cell senescence and apoptosis. Our research focuses on the role of SCFA-sensing G protein-coupled receptors in the gastrointestinal tract of non-ruminant (human, pig, dog, cat, rat) and ruminant species (cow). We investigate its signalling properties, its impact on gene transcription and its role in maintaining energy balance and what the intricacies are of processes such as cross-talk.