Hydrogen as an energy source for the human pathogen Bilophila wadsworthia

Sofia M. da Silva, Sofia S. Venceslau, Cláudia L.V. Fernandes, Filipa M.A. Valente, Inês A.C. Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The gram-negative anaerobic gut bacterium Bilophila wadsworthia is the third most common isolate in perforated and gangrenous appendicitis, being also found in a variety of other infections. This organism performs a unique kind of anaerobic respiration in which taurine, a major organic solute in mammals, is used as a source of sulphite that serves as terminal acceptor for the electron transport chain. We show here that molecular hydrogen, one of the major products of fermentative bacteria in the colon, is an excellent growth substrate for B. wadsworthia. We have quantified the enzymatic activities associated with the oxidation of H2, formate and pyruvate for cells obtained in different growth conditions. The cell extracts present high levels of hydrogenase activity, and up to five different hydrogenases can be expressed by this organism. One of the hydrogenases appears to be constitutive, whereas the others show differential expression in different growth conditions. Two of the hydrogenases are soluble and are recognised by antibodies against a [FeFe] hydrogenase of a sulphate reducing bacterium. One of these hydrogenases is specifically induced during fermentative growth on pyruvate. Another two hydrogenases are membrane-bound and show increased expression in cells grown with hydrogen. Further work should be carried out to reveal whether oxidation of hydrogen contributes to the virulence of B. wadsworthia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-390
Number of pages10
JournalAntonie van Leeuwenhoek
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2008


  • Bilophila wadsworthia
  • Formate dehydrogenase
  • Gut bacteria
  • Hydrogen
  • Hydrogenase


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