Distribution of β-glucosidase and β-glucuronidase activity and of β-glucuronidase gene gus in human colonic bacteria

Marta Dabek, Sheila I. McCrae, Valerie Joan Stevens, Sylvia Helen Duncan, Petra Louis* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Citations (Scopus)


beta-Glycosidase activities present in the human colonic microbiota act on glycosidic plant secondary compounds and xenobiotics entering the colon, with potential health implications for the human host. Information on beta-glycosidases is currently limited to relatively few species of bacteria from the human colonic ecosystem. We therefore screened 40 different bacterial strains that are representative of dominant bacterial groups from human faeces for beta-glucosidase and beta-glucuronidase activity. More than half of the low G+C% Gram-positive firmicutes harboured beta-glucosidase activity, while beta-glucuronidase activity was only found in some firmicutes within clostridial clusters XIVa and IV. Most of the Bifidobacterium spp. and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron carried beta-glucosidase activity. A beta-glucuronidase gene belonging to family 2 glycosyl hydrolases was detected in 10 of the 40 isolates based on degenerate PCR. These included all nine isolates that gave positive assays for beta-glucuronidase activity, suggesting that the degenerate PCR could provide a useful assay for the capacity to produce beta-glucuronidase in the gut community. beta-Glucuronidase activity was induced by growth on d-glucuronic acid, or by addition of 4-nitrophenol-glucuronide, in Roseburia hominis A2-183, while beta-glucosidase activity was induced by 4-nitrophenol-glucopyranoside. Inducibility varied between strains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-495
Number of pages9
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date5 Jun 2008
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • microbiota
  • colon
  • beta-glucosidase
  • beta-glucuronidase
  • enzyme activity
  • degenerate PCR
  • butyrate-producing bacteria
  • intestinal bacteria
  • Ruminococcus-Gnavus
  • dietary fiber
  • enzymes
  • metabolism
  • cancer
  • microflora
  • diversity
  • cloning
  • ß-glucosidase
  • ß-glucuronidase


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