Indexed on: 24 Dec '13Published on: 24 Dec '13Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology
The microbiota inhabiting the mammalian gut is a functional organ that provides a number of services for the host. One factor that may regulate the composition and function of gut microbial communities is dietary toxins. Oxalate is a toxic plant secondary compound (PSC) produced in all major taxa of vascular plants and is consumed by a variety of animals. The mammalian herbivore Neotoma albigula is capable of consuming and degrading large quantities of dietary oxalate. We isolated and characterized oxalate-degrading bacteria from the gut contents of wild-caught animals and used high-throughput sequencing to determine the distribution of potential oxalate-degrading taxa along the gastrointestinal tract. Isolates spanned three genera: Lactobacillus, Clostridium, and Enterococcus. Over half of the isolates exhibited significant oxalate degradation in vitro, and all Lactobacillus isolates contained the oxc gene, one of the genes responsible for oxalate degradation. Although diverse potential oxalate-degrading genera were distributed throughout the gastrointestinal tract, they were most concentrated in the foregut, where dietary oxalate first enters the gastrointestinal tract. We hypothesize that unique environmental conditions present in each gut region provide diverse niches that select for particular functional taxa and communities.