Indoleacetate decarboxylase is a glycyl radical enzyme catalysing the formation of malodorant skatole

Dazhi Liu, Yifeng Wei, Xuyang Liu, Yan Zhou, Li Jiang, Jinyu Yin, Feifei Wang, Yiling Hu, Ankanahalli N. Nanjaraj Urs, Yanhong Liu, Ee Lui Ang, Suwen Zhao, Huimin Zhao, Yan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Skatole is a malodorous compound that contributes to the characteristic smell of animal faeces. Although skatole has long been known to originate from bacterial tryptophan fermentation, the enzyme catalysing its formation has so far remained elusive. Here we report the use of comparative genomics for the discovery of indoleacetate decarboxylase, an O2-sensitive glycyl radical enzyme catalysing the decarboxylation of indoleacetate to form skatole as the terminal step of tryptophan fermentation in certain anaerobic bacteria. We describe its biochemical characterization and compare it to other glycyl radical decarboxylases. Indoleacetate decarboxylase may serve as a genetic marker for the identification of skatole-producing environmental and human-associated bacteria, with impacts on human health and the livestock industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4224
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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