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Bifidobacteria constitute a substantial proportion of the human gut microbiota. There are currently many bifidobacterial strains with claimed probiotic attributes. The mechanism through which these strains reside within their host and exert benefits to the host is far from fully understood. We have shown in the case of Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 that a cell surface exopolysaccharide (EPS) plays a role in in vivo persistence. Biosynthesis of two possible EPSs is controlled by a bidirectional gene cluster which guides alternate EPS synthesis by means of a reorienting promoter. The presence of EPS impacts on host immune response: the wild type, EPS-positive B. breve UCC2003 efficiently evades the adaptive B-cell host response, while its isogenic, EPS-deficient equivalent elicits a strong adaptive immune response. Functionally, EPS positive strains were more resilient to presence of acid and bile and were responsible for reduced colonization levels of Citrobacter rodentium, a gut pathogen. In conclusion, we have found that EPS is important in host interactions and pathogen protection, the latter indicative of a probiotic ability for the EPS of B. breve UCC2003.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Bifidobacterium breveEnhanced Immune EvasionBeneficial
Bifidobacterium breveReduced Pathogenic ColoniesBeneficial
Bifidobacterium breve BR03Improved Gut ResilienceBeneficial
Bifidobacterium breve BR03Modulated Immune ResponseBeneficial
Bifidobacterium breve BR03Reduced Pathogen ColonizationBeneficial

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