This study investigated the effect of diosgenin, a yam-derived phytochemical, on the growth of enteric lactic acid bacteria (LAB). The in vivo effect of diosgenin on the density of intestinal flora was examined in a murine model of food allergy. Oral administration with diosgenin markedly restored the diminished density of faecal LAB associated with allergic reactions. The direct effect of diosgenin and several structure-related steroidal compounds on the growth of faecal anaerobes isolated from diosgenin-administered mice was also investigated. The presence of diosgenin significantly enhanced the growth of Lactobacillus murinus and Lactobacillus reuteri, but not enterococci. Structure-activity relationship analysis showed that the prebiotic activity of steroidal sapogenins might require structural elements of the C5-C6 double bond and intact E- and F-rings. Collectively, these results indicate that steroidal sapogenins may be a novel class of prebiotics to LAB.
Keywords: Chinese yam; Diosgenin; Lactobacillus; Prebiotic; Sapogenin.
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