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Arch Microbiol. 2005 Jan;183(1):45-55. Epub 2004 Dec 2.

Isolation and characterisation of an equol-producing mixed microbial culture from a human faecal sample and its activity under gastrointestinal conditions.

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  • 1Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.


Only about one third of humans possess a microbiota capable of transforming the dietary isoflavone daidzein into equol. Little is known about the dietary and physiological factors determining this ecological feature. In this study, the in vitro metabolism of daidzein by faecal samples from four human individuals was investigated. One culture produced the metabolites dihydrodaidzein and O-desmethylangolensin, another produced dihydrodaidzein and equol. From the latter, a stable and transferable mixed culture transforming daidzein into equol was obtained. Molecular fingerprinting analysis (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis) showed the presence of four bacterial species of which only the first three strains could be brought into pure culture. These strains were identified as Lactobacillus mucosae EPI2, Enterococcus faecium EPI1 and Finegoldia magna EPI3, and did not produce equol in pure culture. The fourth species was tentatively identified as Veillonella sp strain EP. It was found that hydrogen gas in particular, but also butyrate and propionate, which are all colonic fermentation products from poorly digestible carbohydrates, stimulated equol production by the mixed culture. However, when fructo-oligosaccharides were added, equol production was inhibited. Furthermore, the equol-producing capacity of the isolated culture was maintained upon its addition to a faecal culture originating from a non-equol-producing individual.

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