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Pathogens. 2013 Dec 6;2(4):636-52. doi: 10.3390/pathogens2040636.

The metabolic and ecological interactions of oxalate-degrading bacteria in the Mammalian gut.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Oxalate-degrading bacteria comprise a functional group of microorganisms, commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract of mammals. Oxalate is a plant secondary compound (PSC) widely produced by all major taxa of plants and as a terminal metabolite by the mammalian liver. As a toxin, oxalate can have a significant impact on the health of mammals, including humans. Mammals do not have the enzymes required to metabolize oxalate and rely on their gut microbiota for this function. Thus, significant metabolic interactions between the mammalian host and a complex gut microbiota maintain the balance of oxalate in the body. Over a dozen species of gut bacteria are now known to degrade oxalate. This review focuses on the host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions that regulate the degradation of oxalate by the gut microbiota. We discuss the pathways of oxalate throughout the body and the mammalian gut as a series of differentiated ecosystems that facilitate oxalate degradation. We also explore the mechanisms and functions of microbial oxalate degradation along with the implications for the ecological and evolutionary interactions within the microbiota and for mammalian hosts. Throughout, we consider questions that remain, as well as recent technological advances that can be employed to answer them.

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