Few microbial functions have been compared to a comprehensive survey of the human fecal microbiome. We evaluated determinants of fecal microbial β-glucuronidase and β-glucosidase activities, focusing especially on associations with microbial alpha and beta diversity and taxonomy. We enrolled 51 healthy volunteers (26 female, mean age 39) who provided questionnaire data and multiple aliquots of a stool, from which proteins were extracted to quantify β-glucuronidase and β-glucosidase activities, and DNA was extracted to amplify and pyrosequence 16S rRNA gene sequences to classify and quantify microbiome diversity and taxonomy. Fecal β-glucuronidase was elevated with weight loss of at least 5 lb. (P = 0.03), whereas β-glucosidase was marginally reduced in the four vegetarians (P = 0.06). Both enzymes were correlated directly with microbiome richness and alpha diversity measures, directly with the abundance of four Firmicutes Clostridia genera, and inversely with the abundance of two other genera (Firmicutes Lactobacillales Streptococcus and Bacteroidetes Rikenellaceae Alistipes) (all P = 0.05-0.0001). Beta diversity reflected the taxonomic associations. These observations suggest that these enzymatic functions are performed by particular taxa and that diversity indices may serve as surrogates of bacterial functions. Independent validation and deeper understanding of these associations are needed, particularly to characterize functions and pathways that may be amenable to manipulation.
Flores, R., Shi, J., Gail, M. H., Gajer, P., Ravel, J., & Goedert, J. J. (2012). Association of fecal microbial diversity and taxonomy with selected enzymatic functions. PLoS ONE, 7(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039745