• Bifidobacterium;
  • Bioconversion;
  • Chlorogenic acid;
  • Intestinal microbiota;
  • Probiotic


Chlorogenic acid (3-O-caffeoyl-quinic acid, C-QA), the caffeic ester of quinic acid, is one of the most abundant phenolic acids in Western diet. The majority of C-QA escapes absorption in the small intestine and reaches the colon, where the resident microbiota transforms it into several metabolites. C-QA conversion by the gut microbiota from nine subjects was compared to evaluate the variability of bacterial metabolism. It was investigated whether a potentially probiotic Bifidobacterium strain, capable of C-QA hydrolysis, could affect C-QA fate.

Methods and results

Bioconversion experiments exploiting the microbiota from diverse subjects revealed that C-QA was metabolized through a succession of hydrogenation, dexydroxylation and ester hydrolysis, occurring in different order among the subjects. Transformation may proceed also through quinic acid residue breakdown, since caffeoyl-glycerol intermediates were identified (HPLC-MS/MS, Q-TOF). All the pathways converged on 3-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-propanoic acid, which was transformed to hydroxyphenyl-ethanol and/or phenylacetic acid in few subjects. A strain of Bifidobacterium animalis able to hydrolyze C-QA was added to microbiota cultures. It affected microbial composition but not to such an extent that C-QA metabolism was modified.


A picture of the variability of microbiota C-QA transformations among subjects is provided. The transformation route through caffeoyl-glycerol intermediates is described for the first time.