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Glycan Foraging in Vivo by an Intestine-Adapted Bacterial Symbiont

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Science  25 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5717, pp. 1955-1959
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109051

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Abstract

Germ-free mice were maintained on polysaccharide-rich or simple-sugar diets and colonized for 10 days with an organism also found in human guts, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, followed by whole-genome transcriptional profiling of bacteria and mass spectrometry of cecal glycans. We found that these bacteria assembled on food particles and mucus, selectively induced outer-membrane polysaccharide-binding proteins and glycoside hydrolases, prioritized the consumption of liberated hexose sugars, and revealed a capacity to turn to host mucus glycans when polysaccharides were absent from the diet. This flexible foraging behavior should contribute to ecosystem stability and functional diversity.

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