Recent studies revealed that some intestinal microorganisms anaerobically convert choline to trimethylamine (TMA) by choline TMA-lyase (cutC). TMA is further oxidized to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), by the liver enzyme flavin-dependent monooxygenase 3 (FMO3). TMA in the serum is correlated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and some other diseases in human. The objective of this study is to study the expression levels of cutC and its activating enzyme (cutD) gene for these microorganisms and their association with TMA production. In this study, we collected 20 TMA producing bacteria strains representing 20 species, and designed primers to evaluate their gene expression levels by reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). In addition, TMA production was analyzed by UPLC-MS/MS. Results showed that gene expression levels of most individual strains were different when compared with the gene expression level of their glyceraldehyde-3 phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) gene and the TMA production level of gut bacteria may not correlate with their cutC/cutD gene expression levels. Bioinformatic analysis of the CutC protein showed conserved choline binding site residues; cutD showed conserved S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and two CX2-CX2-CX3 motifs. The present study reports that the TMA production level may not only depend on cutC/cutD gene expression. Other factors may need to be investigated.
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