Gut-derived Flavonifractor species variants are differentially enriched during in vitro incubation with quercetin

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 2;15(12):e0227724. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227724. eCollection 2020.


Flavonoids are a common component of the human diet with widely reported health-promoting properties. The gut microbiota transforms these compounds affecting the overall metabolic outcome of flavonoid consumption. Flavonoid-degrading bacteria are often studied in pure and mixed cultures but the multiple interactions between quercetin-degraders and the rest of the community have been overlooked. In this study, a comparative metataxonomic analysis of fecal communities supplemented with the flavonoid quercetin led us to identify a potential competitive exclusion interaction between two sequence variants related to the flavonoid-degrading species, Flavonifractor plautii, that belong to the same genus but different species. During incubation of fecal slurries with quercetin, the relative abundance of these two variants was inversely correlated; one variant, ASV_65f4, increased in relative abundance in half of the libraries and the other variant, ASV_a45d, in the other half. This pattern was also observed with 6 additional fecal samples that were transplanted into germ-free mice fed two different diets. Mouse's diet did not change the pattern of dominance of either variant, and initial relative abundances did not predict which one ended up dominating. Potential distinct metabolic capabilities of these two Flavonifractor-related species were evidenced, as only one variant, ASV_65f4, became consistently enriched in complex communities supplemented with acetate but without quercetin. Genomic comparison analysis of the close relatives of each variant revealed that ASV_65f4 may be an efficient utilizer of ethanolamine which is formed from the phospholipid phosphatidylethanolamine that is abundant in the gut and feces. Other discordant features between ASV_65f4- and ASV_a45d-related groups may be the presence of flagellar and galactose-utilization genes, respectively. Overall, we showed that the Flavonifractor genus harbors variants that present a pattern of negative co-occurrence and that may have different metabolic and morphological traits, whether these differences affect the dynamic of quercetin degradation warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Clostridiales / drug effects*
  • Clostridiales / genetics
  • Clostridiales / isolation & purification
  • Clostridiales / metabolism
  • Culture Media / pharmacology
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Phylogeny
  • Quercetin / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Ribotyping
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sodium Acetate / pharmacology
  • Species Specificity


  • Culture Media
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Dietary Fiber
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sodium Acetate
  • Carbon
  • Quercetin

Supplementary concepts

  • Flavonifractor plautii

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.