“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan Current Biology

22nd January 2014

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How a versatile gut bacterium helps us get our daily dietary fiber
University of British Columbia researchers have discovered the genetic machinery that turns a common gut bacterium into the Swiss Army knife of the digestive tract – helping us metabolize a main component of dietary fibre from the cell walls of fruits and vegetables.
The findings illuminate the specialized roles played by key members of the vast microbial community living in the human gut, and could inform the development of tailored microbiota transplants to improve intestinal health after antibiotic use or illness. The research is published in the journal Nature.

"While they are vital to our diet, the long chains of natural polymeric carbohydrates that make up dietary fibre are impossible for humans to digest without the aid of our resident bacteria," says UBC professor Harry Brumer, with UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry, and senior author of the study.
"This newly discovered sequence of genes enables Bacteroides ovatus to chop up xyloglucan, a major type of dietary fibre found in many vegetables – from lettuce leaves to tomato fruits. B. ovatus and its complex system of enzymes provide a crucial part of our digestive toolkit.”

Johan Larsbrink, Theresa E. Rogers, Glyn R. Hemsworth, Lauren S. McKee, Alexandra S. Tauzin, et al. A discrete genetic locus confers xyloglucan metabolism in select human gut Bacteroidetes. Nature, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nature12907
This image shows Bacteroides ovatus, wild strain. (Credit: Harry Brumer, UBC)

How a versatile gut bacterium helps us get our daily dietary fiber

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered the genetic machinery that turns a common gut bacterium into the Swiss Army knife of the digestive tract – helping us metabolize a main component of dietary fibre from the cell walls of fruits and vegetables.

The findings illuminate the specialized roles played by key members of the vast microbial community living in the human gut, and could inform the development of tailored microbiota transplants to improve intestinal health after antibiotic use or illness. The research is published in the journal Nature.

"While they are vital to our diet, the long chains of natural polymeric carbohydrates that make up dietary fibre are impossible for humans to digest without the aid of our resident bacteria," says UBC professor Harry Brumer, with UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry, and senior author of the study.

"This newly discovered sequence of genes enables Bacteroides ovatus to chop up xyloglucan, a major type of dietary fibre found in many vegetables – from lettuce leaves to tomato fruits. B. ovatus and its complex system of enzymes provide a crucial part of our digestive toolkit.”

Johan Larsbrink, Theresa E. Rogers, Glyn R. Hemsworth, Lauren S. McKee, Alexandra S. Tauzin, et al. A discrete genetic locus confers xyloglucan metabolism in select human gut Bacteroidetes. Nature, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nature12907

This image shows Bacteroides ovatus, wild strain. (Credit: Harry Brumer, UBC)

Tagged: BacteriaFiberDigestionBiologyScience

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