Organization of butyrate synthetic genes in human colonic bacteria: phylogenetic conservation and horizontal gene transfer

Petra Louis (Corresponding Author), Sheila I. McCrae, Cédric Charrier, Harry James Flint

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Butyrate producers constitute an important bacterial group in the human large intestine. Butyryl-CoA is formed from two molecules of acetyl-CoA in a process resembling beta-oxidation in reverse. Three different arrangements of the six genes coding for this pathway have been found in low mol% G+C-content Gram-positive human colonic bacteria using DNA sequencing and degenerate PCR. Gene arrangements were strongly conserved within phylogenetic groups defined by 16S rRNA gene sequence relationships. In the case of one of the genes, encoding beta-hydroxybutyryl-CoA dehydrogenase, however, sequence relationships were strongly suggestive of horizontal gene transfer between lineages. The newly identified gene for butyryl-CoA CoA-transferase, which performs the final step in butyrate formation in most known human colonic bacteria, was not closely linked to these central pathway genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-247
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2007
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • butyrate
  • human colonic microbiota
  • phylogeny
  • gene arrangement
  • human large-intestine
  • chain fatty-acids
  • clostridium-acetobutylicum
  • genome sequence
  • butyrivibrio-fibrisolvens
  • acetate utilization
  • human feces
  • fermentation
  • proposal
  • pathway

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