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As one of the most metabolically complex systems in the body, the liver ensures multi-organ homeostasis and ultimately sustains life. Nevertheless, during early postnatal development, the liver is highly immature and takes about 2 years to acquire and develop almost all of its functions. Different events occurring at the environmental and cellular levels are thought to mediate hepatic maturation and function postnatally. The crosstalk between the liver, the gut and its microbiome has been well appreciated in the context of liver disease, but recent evidence suggests that the latter could also be critical for hepatic function under physiological conditions. The gut-liver crosstalk is thought to be mediated by a rich repertoire of microbial metabolites that can participate in a myriad of biological processes in hepatic sinusoids, from energy metabolism to tissue regeneration. Studies on germ-free animals have revealed the gut microbiome as a critical contributor in early hepatic programming, and this influence extends throughout life, mediating liver function and body homeostasis. In this seminar, we describe the microbial molecules that have a known effect on the liver and discuss how the gut microbiome and the liver evolve throughout life. We also provide insights on current and future strategies to target the gut microbiome in the context of hepatology research.
liver development; hepatic maturation and function; human intestinal microbiome; microbiotamicrobial metabolites