American Society for Microbiology

Differential transcriptional response of bifidobacterium longum to human milk, formula milk, and galactooligosaccharide


In order to gain insight into the effects of human breast milk on the development of the intestinal bifidobacteria and associated health effects, the transcriptome of Bifidobacterium longum LMG 13197 grown in breast milk and formula milk containing galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and long-chain fructooligosaccharides was compared to that obtained in a semisynthetic medium with glucose. Total RNA was isolated from exponentially growing cells and hybridized to a clone library-based microarray. Inserts of clones with significant hybridization signals were sequenced and identified. The B. longum transcriptomes obtained during growth on human and formula milk were more similar to each other than to that obtained from growth in semisynthetic medium with glucose. Remarkably, there were only a few genes implicated in carbohydrate metabolism that were similarly upregulated during growth in both human and formula milk although oligosaccharides were added to the formula. Common highly upregulated genes notably included putative genes for cell surface type 2 glycoprotein-binding fimbriae that are implicated in attachment and colonization in the intestine. Genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism formed the dominant group specifically upregulated in breast milk and included putative genes for N-acetylglucosamine degradation and for metabolism of mucin and human milk oligosaccharides via the galactose/lacto-N-biose gene cluster. This supports the notion that the bifidogenic effect of human milk is to a great extent based on its oligosaccharides. The transcriptional effect of semisynthetic medium containing GOS, which, like human milk, contains a large amount of lactose and galactose, on the B. longum transcriptome was also studied and revealed substantial similarity with carbohydrate-utilization genes upregulated during growth in human milk. This knowledge provides leads to optimizing formula milk to better simulate the observed bifidogenic effects of human breast milk

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