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A systematic analysis of metabolic pathways in the human gut microbiota

By Victòria Pascal Andreu, Hannah Augustijn, Lianmin Chen, Alexandra Zhernakova, Jingyuan Fu, Michael A Fischbach, Dylan Dodd, Marnix H Medema

Posted 26 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.25.432841

The gut microbiota produce hundreds of small molecules, many of which modulate host physiology. Although efforts have been made to identify biosynthetic genes for secondary metabolites, the chemical output of the gut microbiome consists predominantly of primary metabolites. Here, we systematically profile primary metabolic genes from the gut microbiome, identifying 19,885 gene clusters in 4,240 high-quality microbial genomes. We find marked differences in pathway distribution among phyla, reflecting distinct strategies for energy capture. These data explain taxonomic differences in short-chain fatty acid production and suggest a characteristic metabolic niche for each taxon. Analysis of 1,135 subjects from a Dutch population-based cohort shows that the level of 14 microbiome-derived metabolites in plasma is almost completely uncorrelated with the metagenomic abundance of the corresponding biosynthetic genes, revealing a crucial role for pathway-specific gene regulation and metabolite flux. This work is a starting point for understanding differences in how bacterial taxa contribute to the chemistry of the microbiome.

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