Lactobacillus reuteri is a heterofermentative lactic acid bacterium that naturally inhabits the gut of humans and other animals. The probiotic effects of L. reuteri have been proposed to be largely associated with the production of the broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound reuterin during anaerobic metabolism of glycerol. We determined the complete genome sequences of the reuterin-producing L. reuteri JCM 1112T and its closely related species Lactobacillus fermentam IFO 3956. Both are in the same phylogenetic group within the genus Lactobacillus. Comparative genome analysis revealed that L. reuteri JCM 1112T has a unique cluster of 58 genes for the biosynthesis of reuterin and cobalamin (vitamin B12). The 58-gene cluster has a lower GC content and is apparently inserted into the conserved region, suggesting that the cluster represents a genomic island acquired from an anomalous source. Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (2D-NMR) with 13C3-glyceroI demonstrated that L. reuteri JCM 1112 T could convert glycerol to reuterin in vivo, substantiating the potential of L. reuteri JCM 1112T to produce reuterin in the intestine. Given that glycerol is shown to be naturally present in feces, the acquired ability to produce reuterin and cobalamin is an adaptive evolutionary response that likely contributes to the probiotic properties of L. reuteri.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes