Effect of Whole-Grain Barley on the Human Fecal Microbiota and Metabolome

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Nov;81(22):7945-56. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02507-15. Epub 2015 Sep 18.


In this study, we compared the fecal microbiota and metabolomes of 26 healthy subjects before (HS) and after (HSB) 2 months of diet intervention based on the administration of durum wheat flour and whole-grain barley pasta containing the minimum recommended daily intake (3 g) of barley β-glucans. Metabolically active bacteria were analyzed through pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and community-level catabolic profiles. Pyrosequencing data showed that levels of Clostridiaceae (Clostridium orbiscindens and Clostridium sp.), Roseburia hominis, and Ruminococcus sp. increased, while levels of other Firmicutes and Fusobacteria decreased, from the HSB samples to the HS fecal samples. Community-level catabolic profiles were lower in HSB samples. Compared to the results for HS samples, cultivable lactobacilli increased in HSB fecal samples, while the numbers of Enterobacteriaceae, total coliforms, and Bacteroides, Porphyromonas, Prevotella, Pseudomonas, Alcaligenes, and Aeromonas bacteria decreased. Metabolome analyses were performed using an amino acid analyzer and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry solid-phase microextraction. A marked increase in short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as 2-methyl-propanoic, acetic, butyric, and propionic acids, was found in HSB samples with respect to the HS fecal samples. Durum wheat flour and whole-grain barley pasta containing 3% barley β-glucans appeared to be effective in modulating the composition and metabolic pathways of the intestinal microbiota, leading to an increased level of SCFA in the HSB samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Diet
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hordeum / chemistry
  • Hordeum / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Solid Phase Microextraction
  • Triticum / chemistry
  • Triticum / metabolism*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • BioProject/PRJNA290897