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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Oct;66(10):4212-21.

Chemostat enrichments of human feces with resistant starch are selective for adherent butyrate-producing clostridia at high dilution rates.

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  • 1School of Applied Sciences, South Bank University, London, United Kingdom.


Resistant starch (RS) enrichments were made using chemostats inoculated with human feces from two individuals at two dilution rates (D = 0.03 h(-1) and D = 0.30 h(-1)) to select for slow- and fast-growing amylolytic communities. The fermentations were studied by analysis of short-chain fatty acids, amylase and alpha-glucosidase activities, and viable counts of the predominant culturable populations and the use of 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes. Considerable butyrate was produced at D = 0. 30 h(-1), which corresponded with reduced branched-chain fatty acid formation. At both dilution rates, high levels of extracellular amylase activity were produced, while alpha-glucosidase was predominantly cell associated. Bacteroides and bifidobacteria predominated at the low dilution rate, whereas saccharolytic clostridia became more important at D = 0.30 h(-1). Microscopic examination showed that within 48 h of inoculation, one particular bacterial morphotype predominated in RS enrichments at D = 0.30 h(-1). This organism attached apically to RS granules and formed rosette-like structures which, with glycocalyx formation, agglomerated to form biofilm networks in the planktonic phase. Attempts to isolate this bacterium in pure culture were repeatedly unsuccessful, although a single colony was eventually obtained. On the basis of its 16S rDNA sequence, this RS-degrading, butyrate-producing organism was identified as being a previously unidentified group I Clostridium sp. A 16S rRNA-targeted probe was designed using this sequence and used to assess the abundance of the population in the enrichments. At 240 h, its contributions to total rRNA in the chemostats were 5 and 23% at D = 0.03 and 0.30 h(-1), respectively. This study indicates that bacterial populations with significant metabolic potential can be overlooked using culture-based methodologies. This may provide a paradigm for explaining the discrepancy between the low numbers of butyrate-producing bacteria that are isolated from fecal samples and the actual production of butyrate.

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