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J Appl Microbiol. 1999 Sep;87(3):345-52.

Bile salt deconjugation by lactobacillus plantarum 80 and its implication for bacterial toxicity


The effects of bile salts on the survival of lactobacilli were investigated using glycocholic acid, cholic acid and deoxycholic acid as model compounds and the bile salt hydrolase active Lactobacillus plantarum 80 (BSH+) and its BSH negative mutant. The detrimental effects of cholic acid, i.e. growth inhibition and cytotoxicity at a concentration of 1 and 5 mmol l-1, respectively, were considered to be due to the hydrophobic protonated form of the molecule, which brings about membrane damage. The conversion of glycocholic acid to cholic acid by the BSH active L. plantarum 80 caused a growth inhibition which was comparable with the inhibition observed in the broth supplemented with 1 mmol l-1 cholic acid. Deoxycholic acid caused toxicity through membrane damage when the compound was in solution. Its toxicity disappeared in the culture broth as the molecule precipitated. In case of cholic acid, the toxicity could be removed by buffering the solution at pH 7.0. It was calculated that at this pH most of the cholic acid molecules were ionized. The results led to the formulation of an extended hypothesis about the ecological significance of bile salt transformations. Primary deconjugation is carried out to counteract intracellular acidification. Yet, the deconjugated molecule can be harmful at moderately acidic pH-values. In this case, the BSH+ strains could effectively profit from their activity in case they are associated with 7alpha-dehydroxylating bacteria which dehydroxylate the deconjugated bile salts. The dehydroxylated molecule has a low solubility and precipitates at moderately acidic pH.

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