Contribution of the microflora to proteolysis in the human large intestine

J Appl Bacteriol. 1988 Jan;64(1):37-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.1988.tb02427.x.


Protease activities in human ileal effluent were approximately 20-fold greater than in normal faeces. Comparative studies with faeces from a person who did not have a pancreas suggested that a substantial proportion of the proteolytic activity in normal faeces was of bacterial origin. Thimerosal, iodoacetate, EDTA and cysteine significantly inhibited proteolysis in faeces, but not in small intestinal contents, showing that cysteine and metalloproteases were produced by bacteria in the large gut. These results, together with results from studies using p-nitroanilide substrates, demonstrated that faecal proteolysis was both qualitatively and quantitatively different from that in the small intestine. Studies with pure cultures of proteolytic gut bacteria indicated that the cell-bound proteases of Bacteroides fragilis-type organisms were likely to contribute significantly towards proteolytic activity associated with the washed cell fraction and washed particulate fraction of faeces. Extracellular proteases were formed by Streptococcus faecalis ST6, Propionibacterium acnes P6, Clostridium perfringens C16, Cl. bifermentans C21 and Cl. sporogenes C25. Inhibition results suggested that these bacteria, and similar organisms, may be partly responsible for the extracellular proteolytic activity found in the cell-free supernatant fraction of faeces.

MeSH terms

  • Aminopeptidases / metabolism
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteroides / enzymology
  • Clostridium / enzymology
  • Enterococcus faecalis / enzymology
  • Feces / enzymology
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Ileum / enzymology
  • Ileum / microbiology
  • Intestine, Large / enzymology
  • Intestine, Large / microbiology*
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Propionibacterium acnes / enzymology
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Aminopeptidases