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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 29;8(4):e62409. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062409. Print 2013.

Comparative analysis of the gut microbiota in people with different levels of ginsenoside Rb1 degradation to compound K.

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Department of Life and Nanopharmaceutical Sciences and Department of Pharmacy, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea.


Panax ginseng (family Araliaceae) which contains ginsenoside Rb1 as a main constituent is traditionally used as a remedy for cancer, inflammation, stress, and ageing. The ginsenoside Rb1 in orally administered ginseng is metabolized to bioactive compounds by gut microbiota before their absorptions to the blood. However, its metabolizing activities in individuals are significantly different as we previously demonstrated. Here, we selected 5 samples with fecal activity potently metabolizing ginsenoside Rb1 to compound K (FPG; metabolic activity, 0.058±0.029 pmol/min/mg) and 5 samples with fecal activity non-metabolizing ginsenoside Rb1 to compound K (FNG) from a pool of 100 subjects investigated in a previous study and analyzed fecal microbiota by 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing. Taxonomy-based analysis showed that the population levels of Firmicutes and Proteobacteria in FPG were lower than in FNG, but those of Bacteroidetes and Tenericutes in FPG were higher than in FNG. At the genus level, the population levels of Clostridiales_uc_g, Oscillibacter, Ruminococcus, Holdemania, and Sutterella in FPG were significantly higher than in FNG, but that of Leuconostoc in FPG was lower than in FNG. The population levels of Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium, which potently metabolizes ginsenoside Rb1 to compound K were dramatically increased in FPG. The gut microbiota compositions of FPG and FNG were segregated on PCO2 by Principal Coordinate Analysis. Intestinal bacterial metabolism of ginseng, particularly ginsenoside Rb1, may be dependent on the composition of gut microbiota, such as Ruminococcus spp., Bacteroides spp. and Bifidobacterium spp.

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