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Omics of bifidobacteria: research and insights into their health-promoting activities.

  • 2017-12-06
  • Biochemical Journal 474(24)
    • F. Bottacini
    • D. van Sinderen
    • M. Ventura


Members of the genus Bifidobacterium include gut commensals that are particularly abundant among the microbial communities residing in the gut of healthy breast-fed infants, where their presence has been linked to many beneficial host effects. Next-generation DNA sequencing and comparative and functional genome methodologies have been shown to be particularly useful in exploring the diversity of this genus. These combined approaches have allowed the identification of genetic features related to bifidobacterial establishment in the gut, involving host-microbe as well as microbe-microbe interactions. Among these, proteinaceous structures, which protrude from the bacterial surface, i.e. pili or fimbriae, and exopolysaccharidic cell surface layers or capsules represent crucial features that assist in their colonization and persistence in the gut. As bifidobacteria are colonizers of the large intestine, they have to be able to cope with various sources of osmotic, oxidative, bile and acid stress during their transit across the gastric barrier and the small intestine. Bifidobacterial genomes thus encode various survival mechanisms, such as molecular chaperones and efflux pumps, to overcome such challenges. Bifidobacteria represent part of an anaerobic gut community, and feed on nondigestible carbohydrates through a specialized fermentative metabolic pathway, which in turn produces growth substrates for other members of the gut community. Conversely, bifidobacteria may also be dependent on other (bifido)bacteria to access host- and diet-derived glycans, and these complex co-operative interactions, based on resource sharing and cross-feeding strategies, represent powerful driving forces that shape gut microbiota composition.

Keywords: bifidobacteria; human gut microbiota; probiotics.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
BifidobacteriumImproved Gut HealthBeneficial
BifidobacteriumImproved Gut Microbiome CompositionBeneficial
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