Butyrate Production Pathway Abundances Are Similar in Human and Nonhuman Primate Gut Microbiomes

Elizabeth K. Mallott, Katherine R. Amato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Over the course of human evolution, shifts in dietary practices such as meat-eating and cooking, have resulted in reduced fiber intake, a trend that has been exaggerated more recently in industrialized populations. Reduced fiber consumption is associated with a loss of gut microbial taxa that degrade fiber, particularly butyrate. Therefore, this dietary shift in humans may have altered the abundance of microbial genes involved in butyrate production. This study uses a gene-targeted alignment approach to quantify the abundance of butyrate production pathway genes from published wild nonhuman primate and human gut metagenomes. Surprisingly, humans have higher diversity and relative abundances of butyrate production pathways compared with all groups of nonhuman primates except cercopithecoids. Industrialized populations of humans also differ only slightly in butyrate pathway abundance from nonindustrialized populations. This apparent resilience of butyrate production pathways to shifts in human diet across both evolutionary and modern populations may signal an evolutionary shift in host-microbe interactions in humans that increased SCFA production. Such a shift could have contributed to meeting the increased energy requirements of humans relative to nonhuman primates.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsab279
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • butyrate
  • gut microbiome
  • human evolution
  • metabolism


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