Recent evidence indicates a link between gut pathology and microbiome with hypertension (HTN) in animal models. However, whether this association exists in humans is unknown. Thus, our objectives in the present study were to test the hypotheses that high blood pressure (BP) patients have distinct gut microbiomes and that gut–epithelial barrier function markers and microbiome composition could predict systolic BP (SBP). Fecal samples, analyzed by shotgun metagenomics, displayed taxonomic and functional changes, including altered butyrate production between patients with high BP and reference subjects. Significant increases in plasma of intestinal fatty acid binding protein (I-FABP), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and augmented gut-targetting proinflammatory T helper 17 (Th17) cells in high BP patients demonstrated increased intestinal inflammation and permeability. Zonulin, a gut epithelial tight junction protein regulator, was markedly elevated, further supporting gut barrier dysfunction in high BP. Zonulin strongly correlated with SBP (R2 = 0.5301, P<0.0001). Two models predicting SBP were built using stepwise linear regression analysis of microbiome data and circulating markers of gut health, and validated in a separate cohort by prediction of SBP from zonulin in plasma (R2 = 0.4608, P<0.0001). The mouse model of HTN, chronic angiotensin II (Ang II) infusion, was used to confirm the effects of butyrate and gut barrier function on the cardiovascular system and BP. These results support our conclusion that intestinal barrier dysfunction and microbiome function are linked to HTN in humans. They suggest that manipulation of gut microbiome and its barrier functions could be the new therapeutic and diagnostic avenues for HTN.

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