Mechanisms of microbial hydrogen disposal in the human colon and implications for health and disease

Noriko Nakamura, Henry C. Lin, Christopher S. McSweeney, Roderick I. MacKie, H. Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the human gastrointestinal tract, dietary components, including fiber, that reach the colon are fermented principally to short-chain fatty acids, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. Microbial disposal of the hydrogen generated during anaerobic fermentation in the human colon is critical to optimal functioning of this ecosystem. However, our understanding of microbial hydrogenotrophy is fragmented and, at least as it occurs in the colon, is mostly theoretical in nature. Thorough investigation and integration of knowledge on the diversity of hydrogenotrophic microbes, their metabolic variation and activities as a functional group, as well as the nature of their interactions with fermentative bacteria, are necessary to understand hydrogen metabolism in the human colon. Here, we review the limited data available on the three major groups of H2-consuming microorganisms found in the human colon methanogens, sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), and acetogens as well as evidence that end products of their metabolism have an important impact on colonic health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-395
Number of pages33
JournalAnnual Review of Food Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • acetogens
  • human colon
  • hydrogen metabolism
  • methanogens
  • sulfate-reducing bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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