Anaerobic transformation of quercetin-3-glucoside by bacteria from the human intestinal tract
Oral streptococci, isolated from the mouths of 2 healthy subjects, hydrolysed innocuous rutin, a flavonoid glycoside, to its genotoxic aglycon quercetin, in vitro. The isolates were identified as Streptococcus milleri. The glycosidase, rutinase, was studied in cell-free extracts derived from one of the isolates, grown anaerobically in batch cultures by the use of a bioassay, the Ames test, in which S-9 was replaced by the cell-free extracts. This streptococcal rutinase was: constitutive, partly inducible, cytosolic, most active for rutin and most active at pH 6.5. Type-culture collection strains of other oral streptococci (Streptococcus salivarius ATCC 25975 and Streptococcus mutans strain 6715-10) showed no capacity for rutin degradation. A hypothesis for a novel role of the oral microflora in a disease process other than caries and periodontal disease, namely intra-oral cancer, is presented. The possibility of a bacterial liberation of the genotoxic quercetin in situ could be but one example of its involvement in the local carcinogenic process.