A Metabolic Pathway for Activation of Dietary Glucosinolates by a Human Gut Symbiont

Catherine S. Liou, Shannon J. Sirk, Camil A.C. Diaz, Andrew P. Klein, Curt R. Fischer, Steven K. Higginbottom, Amir Erez, Mohamed S. Donia, Justin L. Sonnenburg, Elizabeth S. Sattely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Consumption of glucosinolates, pro-drug-like metabolites abundant in Brassica vegetables, has been associated with decreased risk of certain cancers. Gut microbiota have the ability to metabolize glucosinolates, generating chemopreventive isothiocyanates. Here, we identify a genetic and biochemical basis for activation of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates by Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent gut commensal species. Using a genome-wide transposon insertion screen, we identified an operon required for glucosinolate metabolism in B. thetaiotaomicron. Expression of BT2159-BT2156 in a non-metabolizing relative, Bacteroides fragilis, resulted in gain of glucosinolate metabolism. We show that isothiocyanate formation requires the action of BT2158 and either BT2156 or BT2157 in vitro. Monocolonization of mice with mutant BtΔ2157 showed reduced isothiocyanate production in the gastrointestinal tract. These data provide insight into the mechanisms by which a common gut bacterium processes an important dietary nutrient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-728.e19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


  • Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron
  • glucosinolate
  • gut microbe
  • isothiocyanate
  • myrosinase
  • phytonutrient


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