Reshaping of bacterial molecular hydrogen metabolism contributes to the outgrowth of commensal E. coli during gut inflammation

Elife. 2021 Jun 4;10:e58609. doi: 10.7554/eLife.58609.

Elizabeth R Hughes 1, Maria G Winter 1, Laice Alves da Silva 2, Matthew K Muramatsu 1, Angel G Jimenez 1, Caroline C Gillis 1, Luisella Spiga 1, Rachael B Chanin 1, Renato L Santos 2, Wenhan Zhu 1, Sebastian E Winter 1 3


Author information

  • 1Department of Microbiology, UT Southwestern, Dallas, United States.
  • 2Departamento de Clinica e Cirurgia Veterinarias, Escola de Veterinaria, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
  • 3Department of Immunology, UT Southwestern, Dallas, United States.


The composition of gut-associated microbial communities changes during intestinal inflammation, including an expansion of Enterobacteriaceae populations. The mechanisms underlying microbiota changes during inflammation are incompletely understood. Here, we analyzed previously published metagenomic datasets with a focus on microbial hydrogen metabolism. The bacterial genomes in the inflamed murine gut and in patients with inflammatory bowel disease contained more genes encoding predicted hydrogen-utilizing hydrogenases compared to communities found under non-inflamed conditions. To validate these findings, we investigated hydrogen metabolism of Escherichia coli, a representative Enterobacteriaceae, in mouse models of colitis. E. coli mutants lacking hydrogenase-1 and hydrogenase-2 displayed decreased fitness during colonization of the inflamed cecum and colon. Utilization of molecular hydrogen was in part dependent on respiration of inflammation-derived electron acceptors. This work highlights the contribution of hydrogenases to alterations of the gut microbiota in the context of non-infectious colitis.

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