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Comparative Genome Analysis of Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus fermentum Reveal a Genomic Island for Reuterin and Cobalamin Production

  • 2008-05-12
  • DNA Research 15(3)
    • H. Morita
    • Hidehiro Toh
    • S. Fukuda
    • H. Horikawa
    • K. Oshima
    • Takehito Suzuki
    • M. Murakami
    • S. Hisamatsu
    • Y. Kato
    • T. Takizawa
    • H. Fukuoka
    • T. Yoshimura
    • K. Itoh
    • D. O'sullivan
    • L. Mckay
    • H. Ohno
    • J. Kikuchi
    • T. Masaoka
    • M. Hattori


Lactobacillus reuteri is a heterofermentative lactic acid bacterium that naturally inhabits the gut of humans and other animals. The probiotic effects of L. reuteri have been proposed to be largely associated with the production of the broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound reuterin during anaerobic metabolism of glycerol. We determined the complete genome sequences of the reuterin-producing L. reuteri JCM 1112(T) and its closely related species Lactobacillus fermentum IFO 3956. Both are in the same phylogenetic group within the genus Lactobacillus. Comparative genome analysis revealed that L. reuteri JCM 1112(T) has a unique cluster of 58 genes for the biosynthesis of reuterin and cobalamin (vitamin B(12)). The 58-gene cluster has a lower GC content and is apparently inserted into the conserved region, suggesting that the cluster represents a genomic island acquired from an anomalous source. Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (2D-NMR) with (13)C(3)-glycerol demonstrated that L. reuteri JCM 1112(T) could convert glycerol to reuterin in vivo, substantiating the potential of L. reuteri JCM 1112(T) to produce reuterin in the intestine. Given that glycerol is shown to be naturally present in feces, the acquired ability to produce reuterin and cobalamin is an adaptive evolutionary response that likely contributes to the probiotic properties of L. reuteri.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Lactobacillus reuteriIncreased Vitamin B12 LevelsBeneficial
Lactobacillus reuteriReduced Pathogen GrowthBeneficial

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