Isolation of catechin-converting human intestinal bacteria


Annett Braune, Department of Gastrointestinal Microbiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116, D-14558 Nuthetal, Germany. E-mail:


Aims:  To isolate and characterize bacteria from the human intestine that are involved in the conversion of catechins, a class of bioactive polyphenols abundant in the human diet.

Methods and Results:  Two bacterial strains, rK3 and aK2, were isolated from an epicatechin-converting human faecal suspension. The isolates catalysed individual steps in the degradation of (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. Based on their phenotypic characteristics and 16S rRNA gene sequences, the isolates were identified as Eggerthella lenta and Flavonifractor plautii (formerly Clostridium orbiscindens). Eggerthella lenta rK3 reductively cleaved the heterocyclic C-ring of both (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin giving rise to 1-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-3-(2,4,6-trihydroxyphenyl)propan-2-ol. The conversion of catechin proceeded five times faster than that of epicatechin. Higher (epi)catechin concentrations led to an accelerated formation of the ring fission product without affecting the growth of Eg. lenta rK3. Flavonifractor plautii aK2 further converted 1-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-3-(2,4,6-trihydroxyphenyl)propan-2-ol to 5-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-γ-valerolactone and 4-hydroxy-5-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)valeric acid. Flavonifractor plautii DSM 6740 catalysed the identical reaction indicating it is not strain specific.

Conclusions:  The conversion of dietary catechins by the isolated Eg. lenta and F. plautii strains in the human intestine may affect their bioavailability.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  The majority of catechin metabolites are generated by the intestinal microbiota. The identification of catechin-converting gut bacteria therefore contributes to the elucidation of the bioactivation and the health effects of catechins.