pH and fermentable substrates impose selective pressures on gut microbial communities and their metabolisms. We evaluated the relative contributions of pH, alkalinity, and substrate on microbial community structure, metabolism, and functional interactions using triplicate batch cultures started from fecal slurry and incubated with an initial pH of 6.0, 6.5, or 6.9 and 10 mM glucose, fructose, or cellobiose as the carbon substrate. We analyzed 16S rRNA gene sequences and fermentation products. Microbial diversity was driven by both pH and substrate type. Due to insufficient alkalinity, a drop in pH from 6.0 to ~4.5 clustered pH 6.0 cultures together and distant from pH 6.5 and 6.9 cultures, which experienced only small pH drops. Cellobiose yielded more acidity than alkalinity due to the amount of fermentable carbon, which moved cellobiose pH 6.5 cultures away from other pH 6.5 cultures. The impact of pH on microbial community structure was reflected by fermentative metabolism. Lactate accumulation occurred in pH 6.0 cultures, whereas propionate and acetate accumulations were observed in pH 6.5 and 6.9 cultures and independently from the type of substrate provided. Finally, pH had an impact on the interactions between lactate-producing and -consuming communities. Lactateproducing Streptococcus dominated pH 6.0 cultures, and acetate- and propionateproducing Veillonella, Bacteroides, and Escherichia dominated the cultures started at pH 6.5 and 6.9. Acid inhibition on lactate-consuming species led to lactate accumulation. Our results provide insights into pH-derived changes in fermenting microbiota and metabolisms in the human gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00047-17
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Alkalinity
  • Bacterial diversity
  • Lactate utilizers
  • Microbial communities
  • Microbial fermentation
  • Propionate producers
  • Substrate type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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