Microbial Respiration and Formate Oxidation as Metabolic Signatures of Inflammation-Associated Dysbiosis

Elizabeth R. Hughes, Maria G. Winter, Breck A. Duerkop, Luisella Spiga, Tatiane Furtado de Carvalho, Wenhan Zhu, Caroline C. Gillis, Lisa Büttner, Madeline P. Smoot, Cassie L. Behrendt, Sara Cherry, Renato L. Santos, Lora V. Hooper, Sebastian E. Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Intestinal inflammation is frequently associated with an alteration of the gut microbiota, termed dysbiosis, which is characterized by a reduced abundance of obligate anaerobic bacteria and an expansion of facultative Proteobacteria such as commensal E. coli. The mechanisms enabling the outgrowth of Proteobacteria during inflammation are incompletely understood. Metagenomic sequencing revealed bacterial formate oxidation and aerobic respiration to be overrepresented metabolic pathways in a chemically induced murine model of colitis. Dysbiosis was accompanied by increased formate levels in the gut lumen. Formate was of microbial origin since no formate was detected in germ-free mice. Complementary studies using commensal E. coli strains as model organisms indicated that formate dehydrogenase and terminal oxidase genes provided a fitness advantage in murine models of colitis. In vivo, formate served as electron donor in conjunction with oxygen as the terminal electron acceptor. This work identifies bacterial formate oxidation and oxygen respiration as metabolic signatures for inflammation-associated dysbiosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-219
Number of pages12
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 2017


  • bacterial respiration
  • dysbiosis
  • formate metabolism
  • gut microbiota
  • intestinal inflammation
  • metagenomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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