Discovery of "Probiotic Transporters" Unlocks Secrets of Infection-Preventive Bifidobacteria, University of Tokyo and Yokohama City University Study
In recent years, new metagenomics techniques have enabled scientists to delve ever-deeper into the world of gut microbiota, revealing the strong influence that intestinal bacteria exert on our health. Bifidobacteria, one of the most numerous such bacteria, confer to their hosts a range of beneficial health effects, aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system and even reducing cancer risk. The mechanism underlying these effects, however, has remained a mystery.
With their study, the research team set out to unravel this mystery using a combination of techniques from genetics, transcriptomics and metabolomics. Initial experiments on so-called germ-free (GF) mice, whose guts are uncolonized by bacteria, revealed stark differences between bifidobacteria strains. The researchers found that mice colonized by one bifidobacterium subspecies, B. longum, were able to survive when fed the pathogenic bacteria E. coli O157, while GF mice without the bacteria died of infection within 7 days. Another strain named B. adolescentis, in contrast, had no such effect.
By analyzing fecal metabolic profiles, the researchers succeeded in pinpointing the source of this difference in the production of acetate, which they showed enhances intestinal epithelial defense and protects against infection from O157. The key actor in this mechanism is a carbohydrate transporter encoded by genes present in certain strains of bifidobacteria such as B. longum, which enables these bacteria to utilize fructose to produce acetate in the distal colon.
As a demonstration of the power of multi “omics” technologies, the identification of these “probiotic transporters” constitutes a milestone in the study of gut microbiota. The finding also demonstrates the power of multi “omics” technologies for analyzing the gut ecosystem, promising advancements in the development of cutting-edge probiotic therapies.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Ohno Hiroshi Laboratory for Epithelial Immunobiology RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology Tel: +81-(0)45-503-7031 / Fax: +81-(0)45-503-7068
Ms. Tomoko Ikawa (PI officer) Global Relations Office RIKEN Tel: +81-(0)48-462-1225 / Fax: +81-(0)48-463-3687 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference: Shinji Fukuda, Hidehiro Toh, Koji Hase, Kenshiro Oshima, Yumiko Nakanishi, Kazutoshi Yoshimura, Toru Tobe, Julie M. Clarke, David L. Topping, Tohru Suzuki, Todd D. Taylor, Kikuji Itoh, Jun Kikuchi, Hidetoshi Morita, Masahira Hattori and Hiroshi Ohno. Bifidobacteria protect host from enteropathogenic infection through production of acetate. Nature (2010). DOI: 10.1038/nature09646