Consumption of human milk oligosaccharides by gut-related microbes

J Agric Food Chem. 2010 May 12;58(9):5334-40. doi: 10.1021/jf9044205.


Human milk contains large amounts of complex oligosaccharides that putatively modulate the intestinal microbiota of breast-fed infants by acting as decoy binding sites for pathogens and as prebiotics for enrichment of beneficial bacteria. Several bifidobacterial species have been shown to grow well on human milk oligosaccharides. However, few data exist on other bacterial species. This work examined 16 bacterial strains belonging to 10 different genera for growth on human milk oligosaccharides. For this propose, a chemically defined medium, ZMB1, was used, which allows vigorous growth of a number of gut-related microorganisms in a fashion similar to complex media. Interestingly, Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis, Bacteroides fragilis , and Bacteroides vulgatus strains were able to metabolize milk oligosaccharides with high efficiency, whereas Enterococcus , Streptococcus , Veillonella , Eubacterium , Clostridium , and Escherichia coli strains grew less well or not at all. Mass spectrometry-based glycoprofiling of the oligosaccharide consumption behavior revealed a specific preference for fucosylated oligosaccharides by Bi. longum subsp. infantis and Ba. vulgatus. This work expands the current knowledge of human milk oligosaccharide consumption by gut microbes, revealing bacteroides as avid consumers of this substrate. These results provide insight on how human milk oligosaccharides shape the infant intestinal microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared


  • Oligosaccharides