Butyrate is a preferred energy source for colonic epithelial cells and is thought to play an important role in maintaining colonic health in humans. In order to investigate the diversity and stability of butyrate-producing organisms of the colonic flora, anaerobic butyrate-producing bacteria were isolated from freshly voided human fecal samples from three healthy individuals: an infant, an adult omnivore, and an adult vegetarian. A second isolation was performed on the same three individuals 1 year later. Of a total of 313 bacterial isolates, 74 produced more than 2 mM butyrate in vitro. Butyrate-producing isolates were grouped by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The results indicate very little overlap between the predominant ribotypes of the three subjects; furthermore, the flora of each individual changed significantly between the two isolations. Complete sequences of 16S rDNAs were determined for 24 representative strains and subjected to phylogenetic analysis. Eighty percent of the butyrate-producing isolates fell within the XIVa cluster of gram-positive bacteria as defined by M. D. Collins et al. (Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 44:812-826, 1994) and A. Willems et al. (Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 46:195-199, 1996), with the most abundant group (10 of 24 or 42%) clustering with Eubacterium rectale, Eubacterium ramulus, and Roseburia cecicola. Fifty percent of the butyrate-producing isolates were net acetate consumers during growth, suggesting that they employ the butyryl coenzyme A-acetyl coenzyme A transferase pathway for butyrate production. In contrast, only 1% of the 239 non-butyrate-producing isolates consumed acetate.