How Glycan Metabolism Shapes the Human Gut Microbiota

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2012 Apr 11;10(5):323-35. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2746.

Abstract

Symbiotic microorganisms that reside in the human intestine are adept at foraging glycans and polysaccharides, including those in dietary plants (starch, hemicellulose and pectin), animal-derived cartilage and tissue (glycosaminoglycans and N-linked glycans), and host mucus (O-linked glycans). Fluctuations in the abundance of dietary and endogenous glycans, combined with the immense chemical variation among these molecules, create a dynamic and heterogeneous environment in which gut microorganisms proliferate. In this Review, we describe how glycans shape the composition of the gut microbiota over various periods of time, the mechanisms by which individual microorganisms degrade these glycans, and potential opportunities to intentionally influence this ecosystem for better health and nutrition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biota*
  • Diet*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Metagenome / physiology*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*

Substances

  • Polysaccharides