Perturbation of the gut-associated microbial community may underlie many human illnesses, but the mechanisms that maintain homeostasis are poorly understood. We found that the depletion of butyrate-producing microbes by antibiotic treatment reduced epithelial signaling through the intracellular butyrate sensor peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ (PPAR-γ). Nitrate levels increased in the colonic lumen because epithelial expression of Nos2, the gene encoding inducible nitric oxide synthase, was elevated in the absence of PPAR-γ signaling. Microbiota-induced PPAR-γ signaling also limits the luminal bioavailability of oxygen by driving the energy metabolism of colonic epithelial cells (colonocytes) toward β-oxidation. Therefore, microbiota-activated PPAR-γ signaling is a homeostatic pathway that prevents a dysbiotic expansion of potentially pathogenic Escherichia and Salmonella by reducing the bioavailability of respiratory electron acceptors to Enterobacteriaceae in the lumen of the colon.