Background: Bifidobacteria constitute a specific group of commensal bacteria that commonly inhabit the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 was previously shown to utilize a variety of plant/diet/host-derived carbohydrates, including cellodextrin, starch and galactan, as well as the mucin and HMO-derived monosaccharide, sialic acid. In the current study, we investigated the ability of this strain to utilize parts of a host-derived source of carbohydrate, namely the mucin glycoprotein, when grown in co-culture with the mucin-degrading Bifidobacterium bifidum PRL2010.
Results: B. breve UCC2003 was shown to exhibit growth properties in a mucin-based medium, but only when grown in the presence of B. bifidum PRL2010, which is known to metabolize mucin. A combination of HPAEC-PAD and transcriptome analyses identified some of the possible monosaccharides and oligosaccharides which support this enhanced co-cultivation growth/viability phenotype.
Conclusion: This study describes the potential existence of a gut commensal relationship between two bifidobacterial species. We demonstrate the in vitro ability of B. breve UCC2003 to cross-feed on sugars released by the mucin-degrading activity of B. bifidum PRL2010, thus advancing our knowledge on the metabolic adaptability which allows the former strain to colonize the (infant) gut by its extensive metabolic abilities to (co-)utilize available carbohydrate sources.