The secondary bile acids deoxycholic acid (DCA) and lithocholic acid (LCA), formed by gut microbiota from primary bile acids via a multi-step 7α-dehydroxylation reaction, have wide-ranging effects on host metabolism and play an important role in health and disease. A few 7α-dehydroxylating strains have been isolated, where bile acid-inducible (bai) genes were organized in a gene cluster and encoded major enzymes involved. However, only little is known on diversity and abundance of intestinal bacteria catalysing DCA/LCA formation in the human gut in situ. In this study, we took the opportunity to screen metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from sequence data of stool samples provided by two recent studies along with newly available gut-derived isolates for the presence of the bai gene cluster. We revealed in total 765 and 620 MAGs encoding the potential to form DCA/LCA that grouped into 21 and 26 metagenomic species, respectively. The majority of MAGs (92.4 and 90.3%) were associated with a Ruminococcaceae clade that still lacks an isolate, whereas less MAGs belonged to Lachnospiraceae along with eight new isolates (n total = 11) that contained the bai genes. Only a few MAGs were linked to Peptostreptococcaceae. Signatures for horizontal transfer of bai genes were observed. This study gives a comprehensive overview of the diversity of bai-exhibiting bacteria in the human gut highlighting the application of metagenomics to unravel potential functions hidden from current isolates. Eventually, isolates of the identified main MAG clade are required in order to prove their capability of 7α-dehydroxylating primary bile acids.
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