ClC transporter activity modulates histidine catabolism in Lactobacillus reuteri by altering intracellular pH and membrane potential

Microb Cell Fact. 2019 Dec 12;18(1):212. doi: 10.1186/s12934-019-1264-0.


Background: Histamine is a key mediator of the anti-inflammatory activity conferred by the probiotic organism Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC PTA 6475 in animal models of colitis and colorectal cancer. In L. reuteri, histamine synthesis and secretion requires L-histidine decarboxylase and a L-histidine/histamine exchanger. Chloride channel (ClC)-family proton/chloride antiporters have been proposed to act as electrochemical shunts in conjunction with amino acid decarboxylase systems, correcting ion imbalances generated by decarboxylation through fixed ratio exchange of two chloride ions for one proton. This family is unique among transporters by facilitating ion flux in either direction. Here we examine the histidine decarboxylase system in relation to ClC antiporters in the probiotic organism Lactobacillus reuteri.

Results: In silico analyses reveal that L. reuteri possesses two ClC transporters, EriC and EriC2, as well as a complete histidine decarboxylase gene cluster (HDC) for the synthesis and export of histamine. When the transport activity of either proton/chloride antiporter is disrupted by genetic manipulation, bacterial histamine output is reduced. Using fluorescent reporter assays, we further show that ClC transporters affect histamine output by altering intracellular pH and membrane potential. ClC transport also alters the expression and activity of two key HDC genes: the histidine decarboxylase (hdcA) and the histidine/histamine exchanger (hdcP).

Conclusions: Histamine production is a potentially beneficial feature for intestinal microbes by promoting long-term colonization and suppression of inflammation and host immune responses. ClC transporters may serve as tunable modulators for histamine production by L. reuteri and other gut microbes.

Keywords: Amino acid; Chloride transport; Decarboxylase; Histamine; Lactobacilli; Probiotic; Proton transport; eriC; hdcA; hdcP.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Chloride Channels / metabolism*
  • Histidine / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactobacillus reuteri / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials


  • Chloride Channels
  • Histidine