Strain-level fitness in the gut microbiome is an emergent property of glycans and a single metabolite

Sun-Yang Park, Chitong Rao, Katharine Z Coyte, Gavin A Kuziel, Yancong Zhang, Wentao Huang, Eric A Franzosa, Jing-Ke Weng, Curtis Huttenhower, Seth Rakoff-Nahoum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human gut microbiota resides within a diverse chemical environment challenging our ability to understand the forces shaping this ecosystem. Here, we reveal that fitness of the Bacteroidales, the dominant order of bacteria in the human gut, is an emergent property of glycans and one specific metabolite, butyrate. Distinct sugars serve as strain-variable fitness switches activating context-dependent inhibitory functions of butyrate. Differential fitness effects of butyrate within the Bacteroides are mediated by species-level variation in Acyl-CoA thioesterase activity and nucleotide polymorphisms regulating an Acyl-CoA transferase. Using in vivo multi-omic profiles, we demonstrate Bacteroides fitness in the human gut is associated together, but not independently, with Acyl-CoA transferase expression and butyrate. Our data reveal that each strain of the Bacteroides exists within a unique fitness landscape based on the interaction of chemical components unpredictable by the effect of each part alone mediated by flexibility in the core genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-529.e21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022


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