Recent studies have identified the important role of the gut microbiota in the pathogenesis and progression of obesity and related metabolic disorders. The antioxidant tempol was shown to prevent or reduce weight gain and modulate the gut microbiota community in mice; however, the mechanism by which tempol modulates weight gain/loss with respect to the host and gut microbiota has not been clearly established. Here we show that tempol (0, 1, 10, and 50 mg/kg p.o. for 5 days) decreased cecal bacterial fermentation and increased fecal energy excretion in a dose-dependent manner. Liver 1H NMR-based metabolomics identified a dose-dependent decrease in glycogen and glucose, enhanced glucogenic and ketogenic activity (tyrosine and phenylalanine), and increased activation of the glycolysis pathway. Serum 1H NMR-based metabolomics indicated that tempol promotes enhanced glucose catabolism. Hepatic gene expression was significantly altered as demonstrated by an increase in Pepck and G6pase and a decrease in Hnf4a, ChREBP, Fabp1, and Cd36 mRNAs. No significant change in the liver and serum metabolomic profiles was observed in germ-free mice, thus establishing a significant role for the gut microbiota in mediating the beneficial metabolic effects of tempol. These results demonstrate that tempol modulates the gut microbial community and its function, resulting in reduced host energy availability and a significant shift in liver metabolism toward a more catabolic state.
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